Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth. - II Timothy 2:15

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Friday, March 30, 2012

What's A Girl To Do?

It seems when I have a blog topic that I know I should post about but don't want to because it's either too long, will take too much time to think out/type up or is to unresolved on my end, I tend to put it off and blog nothing, nothing, nothing, until it drives me so crazy that I just end up doing it.

Hence this post.

I've been struggling with personal appearance on and off lately. It seems like nothing in my closet flatters, nothing I put on my skin/do in my hair works out, and yeah, the morning exercise routine has been pushed off by the sleep schedule again.

This happens several times a year. I'll become obsessed with clothing, hairstyles, jewelry, shoes, and all the little things that make up what I look like each day.

I get tired of my clothes so I go on a shopping spree and get more things that will soon end up either in the back of my closet or the donation box.

I decide that the reason my clothes don't look good on me is because I need to get in shape and look more like the girls you see in clothing magazines. (Heaven help me, but that's an impossible dream right there)

I decide that my hair needs help, so I spend a lot of time trying new styles, studying people's hairstyles and digging through my drawers for those old doodads I've collected over the years.

I decide that my teeth need to be whiter, so I start stepping up my flossing and brushing and even start using mouthwash. (Though I...don't think it's working)

I decide that my skin needs to be softer, so I experiment with lotions and face-washing routines.


I get frustrated that I can't wear makeup, because I know it'll help me look better in pictures and cover up those annoying blemishes that pop out at me every time I look in the mirror.

I get frustrated that, no matter how many outfits I buy, I never look in them how I imagined I would.

I get frustrated that, though I take care of it, my skin still breaks out and doesn't stay smooth and soft.

I get frustrated that, even though I've started exercising again (even running, good grief), my clothes still fit pretty much how they did before - or look worse.

I get frustrated that my smile doesn't look any better.

I get frustrated that my mouth is too small and my frame is too big. That my hair is hopeless and impossible to style.

And I get jealous of the girls who have everything I want.

I tell God it's not fair. He didn't have to make me this way. I tell him that no one will ever look at me twice and thus I'll end up an old maid, thanks a lot.
But it seems that the more I try to perfect myself, the less time I spend with Him and the less time I spend with Him, the more discontent and imperfect I become.

I've been through this a thousand times; you'd think I'd learn.

It's not about makeup, or clothing, or hairstyles, or getting in shape. It's not about any of that.

Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair or the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes. Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God's sight. - 1 Peter 3:3-4

And I know its a time-worn verse. I've heard it over, and over, and over. Same with this one:

Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised. - Proverbs 31:30

I went to a mother/daughter conference a long time ago where one of the speakers was a young lady who personified those verses. She wasn't what the world would call 'perfect'. She was tall and big and had frizzy blond hair. She wasn't the kind of girl who would ever be on the cover of any department store magazine, but when you looked at her, that stuff didn't seem important.
She was vibrant, friendly, funny and in love with God. I hardly even noticed through my worldly glasses how 'imperfect' she was.

So the next time I find myself spending more time staring into the bathroom mirror than I do looking into the mirror of Scripture, I hope to remember what a dangerous pastime that is. Because charm is deceptive and beauty is fleeting, but a gentle and quiet spirit, grounded in and adoring of God is what will really be noticed and remembered by anyone God brings into your life.

'Till next time!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Book Review: Alhambra

Again, I apologize for the crummy photo; I seem to be doing a lot of reading of books that are so old they have no online images.

Alhambra by Madeleine Polland has been a favorite of mine since I first stumbled across its obscure self quite by accident on the  library shelf. Nothing about the title sparks much interest - it's simple, it's old and it's unobtrusive, but it's written by an author who knew what she was doing.

The reason I love it is because it's one of those old-fashioned Christian fiction books; written before "Christian fiction" was a genre and God simply was in books because that was what people believed and no one even dreamed of labeling it as some sort of queer and separate entity.

So, without further ado...

"I shall never be a Moor. I am Spaniard!" From the start, Juanito resisted the Moorish world into which he and his sister had escaped. He resisted, even knowing that he and Jacinta were fortunate to have survived the battle that destroyed both their father and their home. Yet their haven, the Palace of the Alhambra at Granada, was beautiful beyond anything Juanito had dreamed. He marveled at its fountains and courtyards of shining gold, its orange trees and cypress reaching to the sky. And there was Nahid, a Moorish princess bright and fragile as the palace flowers, with whom Juanito passed his childhood and grew to love. 
Yet disorder was rife among Nahid's people, and when finally the Moors themselves threatened the Alhambra, Juanito knew he must leave behind all he loved and return to Spain. He would join the Spanish armies, commanded by King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella, now ready to launch the final attack to save the Alhambra from certain destruction.
This heroic story of Juanito, torn between his loyalty to Spain and his love for a Moorish girl, reaches its stunning conclusion during the siege of Granada in 1492. (dust jacket synopsis)

To borrow an expression from the synopsis, this book is "rife" with plot.
The book starts out with an impressive bang and gallops on through to the end (it's only about 178 pages, depending on the edition you get). It's full of exquisite descriptions, high adventure, love, hate, betrayal, sacrifice and little plot twists that catch you off guard. All the things that make a book worth reading.
The characters live out their parts and don't shut down into cardboard cutouts with no emotion and the whole thing just pulls you in. And, as I said before, Madeleine Polland knows how to write - and good writing can be hard to come by these days.
This is my third time reading it and I hardly doubt that it will be my last. It's that good.

Juanito - Role: Hero
Author's description (for some reason I've remembered this over the period of time between readings): "dark and elegant and handsome, with this frightening tenacity that would drive him to hold his own way past death itself"
A fine description of a hero, I always thought, and unlike some unfortunate characters who get a written pedigree and then fail to live up to it, Juanito lives up to his description and still manages not to be sickeningly perfect.

Nahid - Role: Heroine and love-interest
I love the descriptions of her. She sort of flits through the book and is so absolutely perfect in her role.

Jacinta - Role: Hero's sister and quite a cornerstone to the plot
Jacinta is probably the most complex character in the book. She is self-sacrificing and willing to give up her dreams and happiness to secure her brother's safety and future, but she is also bitter towards him for being unwilling to accept her choices. Jacinta grows more and more complex as the story progresses and adds most of the depth to the plot.

What is there not to like? The drama is intense and the descriptions and emotions are so finely drawn that you can relate to them while realizing 'that's exactly how it is!' The characters are excellent - works of art - and the history is fascinating. The plot is intense, the writing designed to catch and hold your interest, the ending is both bittersweet and mysterious and the romance is true and sweet - though, I suppose, it does tend to be a little on the mushy side.

- The rather mushy romance, as I just mentioned. And also the fact that it does get a little story-worn as the book goes on. But definitely not bad enough to not read the book!
- The fact that this book is out-of-print and therefore incredibly hard to find and rather expensive to buy. *sigh* Why must so many of my favorite authors be out-of-print?
- Juanito's long hair. Yuck! In my mind, he shall always have short hair. It just doesn't work any other way. :P

Conclusion: This may be a book I love because I read it when I was young and it shaped my dreams and ideas for writing my own novels, and so any older reader who takes my advice and picks it up will wonder what I saw in it, but I don't think so. You can't just brush good writing aside like that. And there's something else about it - some sort of exotic candidness about it that just makes me love it - that could be the reason why I wish everyone could read it. In any case, I recommend it to you, my dear blog readers, in hopes that someday you may stumble across a copy on an obscure library shelf and curl up for a few hours to get lost in the drama and adventure, the romance and the hatred of the Palace of the Alhambra.

'Till next time!

Monday, March 19, 2012

Book Review: Hansi - The Girl Who Left the Swastika

First of all, I apologize for the abysmal picture. There are virtually no pictures of this book online, so I was forced upon my own devices. As you can tell, my own devices are rather deplorable. That and my sister was waiting for the camera.


As I was looking for images of this edition of the book, I found out several interesting things.

1. The first time it was published, it was a heavily edited version titled I Changed Gods (which, I happen to think, is a fascinating title).

2. It as also been titled Hansi: The Girl Who Loved the Swastika (which seems to be the more popular version, judging from the amount of pictures I found)

3. It has also been released as a comic book, where you can get the gist of the story in 36 pages. If you're interested, click here. (I've only glanced over it, so I have no real idea if it's any good. The book, I'm sure, is a thousand times better anyway)

But interesting facts never got mistaken for a book review, so here we go!

"Don't ever forget Jesus!" This tearful admonition of her foster mother followed the teen-aged orphan girl as she began her trip to Prague. Maria (Hansi) was the ency of all in her little Czechoslovakian village because she had won a scholarship to the Nazi school in the capital and would be able to serve the Fuhrer. 
Thus Maria began a long journey in 1940 which was to lead her into the darkness of blind devotion to Hitler and the atheism of the Nazi system. The path led to a storybook romance...cruel disillusionment at Hitler's suicide...a traumatic awakening to the swastika's scourge across Europe upon the Jews...a breathtaking escape from the Communists...and the reemergence into the love and lordship of her Mother's Jesus. (Back cover)

Plot: As this is a biography, I can't rip it apart like I normally would. Her plot was written by God and I can't really argue with Him. I will say, though, that this book is an excellent glimpse into the side of WW2 that you don't often see. Books about Jews surviving the Holocaust and other closely related topics are a dime a dozen, but you don't often find a book that speaks candidly about what it was like to be a German teenager, brainwashed by Hitler.

I often think 'how could you not know that Hitler was evil; and that was he was doing was absolutely wrong'. But in order to make such a judgement, I'd have to understand what was taught to these innocent young people. I can't understand the blind service and belief in Hitler because I wasn't educated in a Nazi school like Hansi was, where everything else got pushed out by persuasive reason and swift - and twisted - logic.

The details of life in a Nazi school training to be a Hitler Youth Leader were intensely interesting - as were the small romances that cropped up from the letter-writing to soldiers that Hansi and her other patriotic friends took up.

And alas, when everything began to crumble, I was amazed at how God cared for Hansi, even though she had basically denied Him and tossed her faith at the foot of the swastika. Her life in Communism, her escape, her experiences in a world putting itself back together, her marriage and her eventual emigration to America - it's all just one amazing God-experience after another.

I loved the way this book was written. It was candid, it wasn't preachy, and it presented the story in an interesting way that didn't lag. I could relate with Hansi a lot because she struggled with many of the same things I've struggled with (a loving God, anxiety, doubt, ect.) and her triumph over them was immensely encouraging.

I would be slightly surprised if you find this book anywhere (I found it in my church library, which boasts an enormous collection of obscure, out-of-print books), but if you ever do stumble across it in any of its forms (except, perhaps, for the comic book...) keep in mind that I recommended it!

 'Till next time,

Monday, March 12, 2012

Frosted Candy Canes and Things As Unimportant

Jamie here again, ready to bring you another update life! 

When you've spent the entire evening with JocelynRose on a couch watching her write her Victorian novel and thinking about candy canes (not that I was), your eyeballs feel really funny. In my opinion, she needs to kill off a few more characters, but she's a little too protective of them to do something like that.


Anyway, my novelization of the story of Joseph has gone to Egypt along with him (even though he had only just stepped out of the well when I left off). I've more or less given it up because I like to be able to make everything up and, even though the story has a great plot of its own, I feel like I'm uprooting an amazing amount of facts by simply overlooking them. 

I have an idea for another short story though - purely written from imagination - but haven't begun work because I can't decide between the names Craig, Christian, and Stephen for my 1/2 MC. (MC is my code for 'main character' when I'm writing in my plotting notebook or my journal or something. And I add a 1/2 before it if the story is shared by two equally important people. Not that you'd really care about that anyway...) He's not really a 1/2 MC anyway, so that whole paragraph (except for the very beginning) is meaningless. 

It's going to be a very morbid short story this time, but will hopefully carry a good theme throughout. Of course, I'll be lucky if Jossie lets me type it up on her computer after she finds out that I've hacked her blog again, but she can't resist upping her post count by announcing stuff for me, so she'll probably get over it. (Don't tell her, but I am bound and determined to post the next announcement myself)
Anyhoo, after that one is posted, I'm going to try my hand at something new and write a happy story - even though it won't be nearly as much fun - just so that I can prove to those more skeptically minded that I can, in fact, write about rainbows, sprinkles, cupcakes, glitter, wedding cakes and cutesy stuff like that without killing or dangerously injuring someone. 

Ahh, but where's the drama in a wedding unless someone is stood up or about to die or treated to some other sort of irreparable catastrophe? That I ask you! 

Oh, and I had a wonderful thrill today: I found a piece of paper I've been looking for! Lest you think I've just taken a cannonball off the deep end (if you weren't thinking that already; shame on you!) it was the writing on the paper that I was looking for, not the paper itself - though I was looking for that too; words wouldn't be much without paper - but, yeah...

And now I must go and frost the candy canes! 


Friday, March 9, 2012

And Here We Go...

Got the word a few days ago that I'll be starting my new job as my Dad's secretary on Monday.


Half of me is excited and half of me is wondering if I'll be able to do everything he needs me to. I've been learning how to make spreadsheets on Microsoft Excel (hee-huh-hee-huh) and trying to figure out all that confusing stuff. Hopefully Dad won't ask me to do really crazy things with that program. Eek!

Other than that, I've sent out a few applications to nursing homes (no word yet from either, though I don't think they're hiring the positions I'm applying for...) and I have a few new leads to other opportunities. =D So far, I'm cautiously moving around in that arena and trying not to get too involved. *sheepish smile*

Right now I'm just trying to keep the fact that I've put my future in God's hands and that where He leads is the best place to follow at the forefront of my mind and not worry about the future and the concerns of growing up and going out into the world. :-/

I found an incredible bit of a verse in the Psalms a few days ago and thought I'd share it. It's so immensely encouraging right now!

When my spirit grows faint within me, it is You who know my way... - Psalm 142:3a (emphasis added)

'Till next time!