i read banned books.

banned books week.jpg

I follow a lot of bookstagrammers and have been reminded several times this week that it’s Banned Books Week.

As I looked over the list of banned classics and the lists of the top ten books banned every year since ’01, I realized that I’ve read a lot of them.  And I don’t think that’s a bad thing.

For instance, The Bible was banned for “religious content.”  To Kill a Mockingbird was banned for “racial slurs and profanity.”  Lord of the Rings (and other Tolkien novels) were banned as “satanic.”  The Grapes of Wrath was banned for “sexual content and profanity.” (Find all these reasons and more here.)

I didn’t write a blog post about Banned Books Week last year, but I thought about it.  And now, since I’ve read so many more classics (seriously, this American Lit course is kind of ridiculous), I have many more thoughts about it.

(Hence the blog post.)

One of the things I’ve thought about books is that while there are valid reasons to ban books from libraries – especially school libraries – it’s ultimately just up to the reader. There’s nothing stopping a reader from simply going to the bookstore or getting a book online that wasn’t available at their library.  Of course, it’s less likely they’ll spend money on it rather than just find a library that has it, but there’s very little point to keeping a book out of a high school library.  (Elementary and middle schools are a completely different story, however.)

However, the main reason is that people shouldn’t tell other people what not to read.  I understand parents not allowing their children to read something, but you can’t just mass-ban something just because you don’t agree with it.

Many of these books were banned for good reason, and I understand putting warning stickers on them or something (like the “Explicit” stickers on albums)… but banning them?  What about all the good in them?

To Kill a Mockingbird isn’t just racial surs – it’s about friendship and family and – HELLO – the opposite of racism.

Lord of the Rings isn’t just – well, first of all, it isn’t even satanic, okay?  And it’s about love and friendship and courage and defying the odds and it’s just all-around amazing.

The Hunger Games is about standing up for what’s right and fighting for what you believe in.

Harry Potter is about tenacity and friendship and John 15:13 love and courage and perseverance.  (And that doesn’t even scratch the surface – read my posts about it here and here.)

Some of my favorite books of all time have language and/or inappropriate scenes in them. I recommend Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell to lots of friends because I connected so much to it, as I do with The Little Women Letters by Gabrielle Donnelly.  Both have language (although the former has significantly more than the latter), but I still recommend them. Why?  Because they’re good.

Bottom line, books shouldn’t be banned.  Decide what you want to read for yourself.  If you don’t like language, don’t read something that has language – simple as that.  I’ve “ClearPlay’d” books before for friends (and for myself) and while I kind of dislike it because you’re defacing a book (!!!!!!), it does get rid of the language.

Have you ever read a *gasp* banned book?  If so, which one?  Do you think they should be banned?

why are feelings: current thoughts on love n’ stuff.

I feel like Katie Gregoire whenever I give advice about relationships or talk about relationships because I’m “the relationship guru who’s never been in a relationship.”

What can you do, though, when you’re a girl stuck in a culture where girls initiating anything is “forward” and “flirty,” coffee dates mean proposals, and “I want to get to know your daughter” means “I want your daughter”?

(Just kidding.)  (But not really.)

I was talking to a friend a few months ago about how she’s developing feelings for a guy, even though she’s just in her early teens.  “Why?!” she asked me.  “I’m not ready to be married or date, so why do I like this guy?”

“Because feelings and hormones are stupid,” I told her.  (And that’s the truth.)

We went on to talk about why God might’ve brought the guy into her life or brought the feelings on.  I explained that – although I’m no expert – I thought that God gives us feelings like that to teach us lessons, primarily self-control and patience.

“It’s not our feelings that are the problem,” I told her, “but rather what we do with those feelings that could potentially be a problem.  It’s a waste of time to develop feelings for every other guy you come across – but sometimes it just happens.  You’ve just gotta stay sane and remember that you probably won’t marry any of those guys, so it’s not worthwhile to spend time dreaming about them.  Just give it to God.  Surrender is a daily thing.”  (etc etc)

Like I said before, I’ve never been in a relationship.  But I sure know people who have.

My friend Katelyn and I were talking the other day about how, although we’ve never been in relationships and it feels like we’ll be perpetually single, we’ve been able to observe others.  Their mistakes, their amazingly wonderful choices – all of it.

“We’re Watchers,” she told me.  “We watch the couples around us and learn what works and what doesn’t.  By the time our turn comes around, we’ll be experts.”

I completely agreed, although I doubt I’ll ever be an expert (at anything amiright).  Better to watch and learn than keep your head in the clouds romanticizing about what’ll happen.

I’ve been so content about my relationship status for the last year or so.  No ridiculous pining, no dreaming about my “someday,” blah blah blah.  I’m very content with there being no prospects in my life, no guys even on my horizon.

But the other day, I was watching Friends and a cute Monica/Chandler thing happened and I just started bawling – first because I was happy for them, then because I wanted it so bad. Blame it on stress from school, staying up too late studying, whatever, but when it all came down to it, it was just just a yearning for a relationship like theirs.  (Because Mondler is about as #goals as you can get.)

I had to have a good shower cry and go before God, saying, “Um, I know I’ve been asking for contentment and You’ve given it to me and I haven’t forgotten that, but I’d like to remind You that I do want it.  I want a relationship.  I want a boyfriend.  I want a husband – eventually.  Not tomorrow, not even next month or next year, but I just want it. Sometime.”

So, despite all the above and all the things I’ve learned through observation and the stupid mistakes I’ve made relating to guys… I’m still learning.  I’ve still got those days where I’d just like a boyfriend, if only to get free guy-hugs whenever I want them or to steal his hoodie.  (Well, that and to know that I’m actually likeable.  Because sometimes I feel like the Hulk – like I can crush but I cannot be crushed [on].)

But I’ve made it this far, and I’m holding out hope that it’ll happen someday.

bad boyz.

(whenever i think of bad boys, i think of this video.  CLASSIC STUDIO C!)

My sister and I have recently gotten into Gilmore Girls.  Mild obsession there, totally justified because it’s just SO. GOOD.  The dialogue is witty and quick, there isn’t a flimsy, undeveloped character in sight, and the story is amazing.  Not to mention the ships.  *clutches heart*  Luke&Lorelai forevahhhh.

If you aren’t familiar with it, the story follows Lorelai Gilmore and her daughter Rory and the ups and downs that go with growing up in a small town and trying to make their way in the world.  With that comes a series of boyfriends for both women, starting with Max for Lorelai and Dean my precious, angry ray of sunshine for Rory.  Everything goes fine for Dean and Rory – they love each other, they’re adorable, they help each other…

Then Jess Mariano comes in town.

jess1

He’s super smart and loves to read, but hates going to school.  In the first episode he’s in, he steals Rory’s book, writes notes in the margins, and gives it back.  He’s dashingly handsome and knows it, rebellious, hates living in Stars Hollow, and basically wants to be anywhere else but where he is – and grouchily lets everybody know it.

My sister – and the entire female population of the show’s viewers, apparently – immediately fell in love.  Understandably, too.  He’s had a super hard life, a rough childhood, and nobody seems to see past his “bad boy” facade and try to figure out who he really is underneath that.  (And my sister didn’t fall in love with him because he was hot, although it was a contributing factor.  She loved him because nobody else seemed to, because she wanted to see him succeed, and because she thought he had potential.  Completely understandable.)

I, on the other hand, didn’t like him.  I liked Dean.  Dean was precious and sweet and may have had some anger problems and was a little controlling, but there was so much LOVE between him and Rory!

If you’ve seen the show, you know what happens.  (And if you haven’t, here be spoilers.)  For some reason, Rory becomes infatuated with this kid.  Dean notices and gets ticked.  Rory tries to keep their relationship going, but she’s too distracted by the new kid.  Eventually, Dean gives up and breaks up with Rory, culminating in one of the most intense throw-downs of all TV history, second only to their massive fight at the end of the third season.  Rory and Jess immediately get together.  Because he doesn’t know how to communicate, they work together, but not as well as they could have.

jess and rory.jpg

To be completely honest, I still don’t really like Jess.  (WHY DOES HE HAVE TO BE SO CUTE, THOUGH?!)  I want him to be redeemed, but I can’t stand how rude he is to Rory.  My sister and I are at the end of the third season, and while I still don’t love him, he’s grown on me a little.  But STILL.  He’s gruff, rude, selfish, and does a lot of irresponsible things to get Rory’s attention.  My sister and I have had a lot of conversations about him and other bad boys.

There are so many of these “bad boy” characters on the screen today.  Shawn Hunter from Boy Meets World, Dean Winchester from Supernatural*, Moriarty from Sherlock, Jack Harkness from Doctor Who*, Jayne Cobb (and, to an extent, Malcolm Reynolds) from Firefly, Han Solo and Kylo Ren from the Star Wars franchise, Loki from the Marvel movies, half the guys from The Outsiders, and Draco Malfoy from Harry Potter.  (Starred are characters/shows that I’m aware of and know enough about, but don’t watch.  Just fyi.)

These bad boy characters are suave, always have problems with authority, have a devil-may-care attitude about everything, are kind of cocky or disrespectful, usually don’t treat ladies well, get into fights easily, are played by super hot actors, and typically wear leather.  (Does Draco wear leather?  I need to look into this.)

Girls typically swoon over them faster than the “good guys” on the show, or – like me – find themselves inexplicably drawn to this character, regardless of their initial hatred.  I’ve become deeply interested with the bad boy characters because they’re so interesting.  A few of my favorites are Shawn, Mal, and the boys from The Outsiders.  (If you’ve never liked a bad boy character, congratulations.  You’re a special snowflake.)

shawn hunter

So why are bad boys so entrancing?  All of the above characteristics should be immediate turn-offs… shouldn’t they?  Why do girls fall in love with them so quickly?

Well, let’s look at Rory’s situation.  Jess was mysterious.  He had a troubled past.  (They all do, don’t they…)  More than that, he needed her help.  At least, she thought he did.

My theory is that Rory and other female heroines who fall in love with these types of guys have some kind of Superman complex.  If only they could save this guy, he’d be such a catch!  And sometimes they don’t even go that far – he’s just so hot they can’t help but want to save him, regardless of what he does in return.  They pity him because of his troubled past or because “he’s just misunderstood” or because he’s just so smooth and hot and looks good lounging against a street sign when he should be in school.  A friend also suggested that they promise adventure.

kylo

Most of all, women were born with an innate desire to nurture, and sometimes we pick the worst off.  This leads me to always fall in love with and cheer on the underdog.  Show me a slightly pathetic, deserves-everything-yet-has-nothing character and I’ll keep him for forever.  Neville Longbottom, Shawn Hunter, Johnny Cade – those are the kinds of guys my mothering nature leads me to.  For others, that may mean the bad boy character.  If you can heal or help him, you will.

I personally think that the bad boys often have the most potential.  If they can get out of that bad situation, they’ll stop at nothing to keep themselves from going back.  I’ll take a redeemed bad boy over an unchanging good guy any day.

So what do you think?  Agree?  Disagree?  Do you fall for bad boys or do you prefer good guys?

LIE: you have a terrible existence if you don’t {xyz}.

Friends

A few months ago, a good friend introduced me to the show Friends.  Well, I need to back up.  Back when it was on TV, my parents used to watch it after they put us to bed and I would sneak out of my bed and watch it from the balcony.  They probably knew I was there, but I never got caught.  *sunglasses emoji*  I officially started watching it from Season One, Episode One back in May… and I’m hooked.

I recently had an almost-meltdown when I found out that my library didn’t have the season I was supposed to start next (seriously, what library buys the first six seasons of a TV show but skips over the fourth season?!), which resulted in taking total advantage of the Netflix free trial my mom got while we were at WITAlive and blowing through the episodes as quickly as I can.  (Don’t worry, I haven’t totally thrown away all of my free time – I’m using them as incentives to get my school done and it. is. working.)

As I fell in love with the show and the characters, I wondered why I hadn’t seen it before. Obviously, I wouldn’t recommend it to anybody under, say, eighteen, and I’m glad I didn’t watch it until now because I wouldn’t have appreciated it as much.  (I’m three steps behind all of the characters because I’m just about to graduate college and figure out what to do with my life, while they’re a few years out of college and still don’t have it all together.  It gives me so much hope.)  Still, I was so happy that I was finally able to understand references to one of America’s greatest sitcoms (“WE WERE ON A BREAK!”) and enjoy all of the jokes that the generation before me enjoyed.

I typically like to savor shows and books (which is probably why I still haven’t finished Boy Meets World), but for a while with Friends, I kind of felt like I had to catch up.  It felt like the entire world had seen this show… except me.  I love watching episodes in between intense study sessions and as rewards for submitting papers and reading classic novels that I struggled to get through (classics aren’t my cup of tea, tbh, but I’m trying to develop a taste for them) and even just to destress after a rough day.  However, I think part of my (mild) bingeing of the show had something to with the fact that I felt so behind.  I wasn’t pressured by my friend to watch it after she said, “You haven’t watched it yet?!” – instead, I pressured myself.

I do this a lot, especially with books, shows, music, movies.  Just the other day, I incredulously said to a friend, “Wait, you haven’t. read. Harry. Potter?!” even though I hadn’t read them for myself a year ago.  Oops.

Especially with more popular things, I think people pressure others into doing stuff – almost guilt-tripping them into thinking they’re missing out on something because they haven’t experienced it yet.  “Wait, you haven’t played Pokemon Go?!”  “You stopped watching Downton Abbey?!”  “You didn’t like Fault in Our Stars?!”  “Wait, you’ve never had a pumpkin spice latte?!”  “You haven’t seen all of Sherlock – or read the books?!  AND YOU CALL YOURSELF A FAN?!”  I’ve had all of these things said to me.  And, yes, I’m guilty of all of them.  I haven’t played Pokemon Go, I stopped watching DA in the middle of the third season (for no reason in particular except the fact that it’s a soap opera and I have enough drama in my own life), I don’t love TFIOS, I’ve never had a PSL, I haven’t seen the last season of Sherlock or read all of the stories.

Does that make me a terrible person, though?

Nope.

Listen, just because somebody hasn’t seen or done a popular thing, it doesn’t make them a lesser person.  Not doing something doesn’t invalidate someone’s existence.

We can’t do it all.  So why do we pressure ourselves and others?

Just like I thought I was “behind” because I hadn’t seen Friends or still haven’t seen all of Gilmore Girls (and will probably binge on that with my sisters over the next few months in preparation for Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life) or haven’t been to ComicCon or DragonCon or GeekyCon, other people feel the same way.  We’re pressured by society to experience everything that’s popular, especially music and movies and TV shows and books, but we’re also pressured to get off our rear ends and do something because all of our friends’ Instagram feeds are full of pictures of mountains and iconic places in foreign countries.

Our lives are expected to look like everyone else’s.  In Friends, all of the characters have finished college (except maybe Phoebe), gotten a job, and found an apartment.  That’s what society expects of us twenty-somethings.  And that’s great and all of those things should be desired.  But I’m almost twenty-two and I’m still living at home while finishing my degree.  I know friends in their mid-twenties who are still living at home, too, and are getting higher degrees or don’t have “real” jobs.  And that’s okay.

Just because something is the norm or part of pop culture doesn’t mean it’s automatically a part of everyone’s lives.  And discovering that that thing isn’t a part of someone else’s life doesn’t make them any lesser of a person – and it doesn’t make you any more of a person because it’s part of yours.

My existence isn’t lesser because I’m not seeing the world like some of my friends are, just like some of my friends don’t have a less fulfilled life because they’re not getting a degree like I am.

Do. not. guilt-trip someone just because they’re not interested in what you or a lot of the world is interested in.  If they want to stay at home and lay on the floor and just listen to music, let them do it!  If they want to use the money they earn to travel, let them do it!

Obviously you should compromise with your friends sometimes and obviously you should get out of your comfort zone and do stuff (or sometimes just relax and forego doing stuff). But it’s never okay to make someone feel bad for what they are or aren’t interested in.

More than that, maybe this friend is on to something.  If they’ll let you, lie down on the floor with them.  Ask if you can go on their next road trip with them.  You may be surprised and find yourself interested in the stuff they like to do, too.

So what do you think?  Have you felt pressured to do something by your friends or society, or have you pressured someone else?  Did you end up liking it?  Did they?  Leave a comment and let’s talk!

{This blog post is sponsored in part by my college coursework, which was gracious enough to be easy and let me finish it by ten in the morning – something that hasn’t happened since I was in elementary school.  THANK YOU.}

“to abstain is to not… is to not.” | a rambly post about relationships.

{Partially inspired by this interview of one of my favorite people, Phylicia Masonheimer.}

girl standing in field

because every purity post needs a random picture of a girl with her hands up.

We’ve all heard the purity metaphors – the sticky note, the cake, the sucker…  As I wrote this post at Starbucks I came up with another.  (Bear with me.)

It was nearing lunchtime and I was hungry.  Starbucks doesn’t have any gluten-free options, so I really wanted to drive over to McDonald’s and get myself some fries (because fries are my one weakness – they’re so good but so bad).  However, I know they’re not gluten-free (which I have to have because of thyroid problems), so I know they’ll ruin my stomach.  Plus, I didn’t have any money to spend at the moment because I’m a poor college student, so I decided to wait.  I knew my mom was cooking a big Sunday lunch and that it would be delicious and healthy and fill me up and – best of all – it’s FREE!  (Bottom line: Instead of filling up on junky stuff, I waited for the thing that would truly satisfy me.)

As stupid and imperfect as that analogy is, it works.  (Sort of.)

I’ve been thinking about my convictions a lot recently (as you have probably noticed) and really trying to figure out what they mean to me. I’ve always understood that your parents’ convictions aren’t grandfathered into your own life, just like your parents’ faith isn’t. It has to be your own.

Lately, I’ve been thinking about purity and what it means to me. I shouldn’t blindly hold to what my parents think about purity and abstinence or else I’ll be swayed when a better opinion (or temptation) comes along.  I have to OWN my convictions so I can stand when temptation comes. (See Ephesians 6:10-18. Paul uses the word “stand” three times in the space of twelve words – I think that means something!)

There’s nothing wrong with thinking critically about your convictions, guys. I thought there was when I was in my teens, but then I realized that it’s just a part of growing up. It’s hard and it’s confusing but it’s what proves you’re maturing.  Owning your convictions – really knowing what you believe – is not something to be taken lightly.

Because of how much I’ve examined my convictions, I have some beliefs that my parents don’t have, just like they have some that I’ve let go of. As my siblings and I have gotten older, we’ve ALL – as an entire family – let go of some things that we used to think were mandatory. For instance, I wear shorts outside the house now, as opposed to up to a few years ago, when the girls in my family mostly wore skirts.  And even though we grew up completely sold on courtship, my sister – with my parents’ blessing – recently went out on a few dates with a guy to get to know him.  It didn’t work out, but neither she nor the guy were emotionally damaged or anything, and they both know a little more about what they want and need in a significant other now.  I’d say their experience wasn’t a “failure” at all.

Some of my family’s convictions have changed simply because my siblings and I have gotten older, and some have changed because our opinions have changed.  For instance, in the above paragraph, the shorts thing was a change of opinion, whereas the dating thing was a change in situation.  (The dates my sister went on would’ve looked a little different had they happened when she was sixteen or eighteen.)

Taking a closer look at my convictions has helped me understand the faults in modern dating and modern courtship and know what I want my relationship life to look like.  It’s not going to be perfect – far from it, knowing myself – but I’m learning from what other people who are, or were, in relationships have to show me.  And even though I was homeschooled most of my life and am now finishing my degree at home, I’ve still made some mistakes.  Shocking, right?  (Sarcasm.)

(And, yes, I think there are some faults in the idea of courtship, just like there are in dating.  HERESY, I KNOW.  I can explain my thoughts in another blog post if you guys want to hear them.  I’ve been thinking about it a lot.  Katelyn knows this.)

Rest assured, I haven’t given up on purity because of all of my thinking.  In fact, because of my research, both in the Bible and through mentors, I’ve become more firm in my convictions.  We all know the verses about how “your body is a temple” and how we should “set an example in purity,” but do we – and do I – really live like we know it?  And if we do, what does that look like?

I’m not saying it has to look the same in everybody’s lives.  Over the past few years, I’ve had dozens of conversations with people about what relationships look like to us.  Dating, courting, half-joking arranged marriage – I’ve heard it all.  I’ve talked to girls who have courted/dated several guys with no luck, girls who are nearing (or in) their thirties and don’t have any prospects, and girls who are married at or before twenty.  And I’ve talked to guys who have had good and bad experiences with dating, too, but mostly courtship (which I’m planning on talking about in a future post).

Here’s my main question: Does it matter whether you call it dating or courting?

When it all comes down to it, I really don’t think so.  What matters the most is glorifying God through your relationship.  What that looks like is between God, you, and your significant other.  Nobody else.

Who cares if somebody thinks you should always or never have a chaperone, or if somebody else thinks the parents should or shouldn’t be involved?!  Courtship, dating, whatever you want to call it and however you do it – it’s going to look different for every. single. person. and. every. single. relationship.  If that’s what God wants your relationship to look like, that’s what it should look like.

People are too judgmental sometimes, including myself.  Too often, I give unsolicited advice because I think I know best, even if I really don’t.  Just the other day, I found myself thinking, Well, she shouldn’t think that way because…  And then I just had to stop and tell myself, Who the heckydizzle am I to decide what’s right for her life?!  I’d hate it if she were doing this to me, so why am I doing it to her?!

Well, this post kind of derailed, but that’s what my brain is doing constantly.  Blame it on the stress of college.  Anyway, thoughts?  Agree?  Disagree?  Let me know in the comments.  I love talking with you guys.  🙂

P.S. The title is a quote borrowed from one of my new favorite rom-coms, She’s the Man.

P.P.S. Thanks for all of your help on my last post!  I was able to revise the short story based on your feedback (and other stuff I needed to change), and submitted it yesterday.  I’ll post the final version later when I get my grade!

you, sir, are wrong. {a response to “an open letter to rey”}

you, sir, are wrong.

I made the mistake of reading Nathan Alberson’s article, “An Open Letter to Rey” at Starbucks, around other people.  To say I was livid would be an understatement.  I wanted to punch something.  Thankfully, I read two responses to the article (Mirriam’s and Jennifer’s), and my anger calmed a little.

HOWEVER.  Because I can’t keep my opinions to myself… I’ve decided to write my own response.  Read it or don’t read it, but this is my personal opinion.  If it offends anyone, I’m sorry, but I’m not backing down.

OKAY.

First of all, I completely agree that men and women have different roles, both in society and in God’s eyes.  Usually, the men are the breadwinners and the women are the… oh, I don’t know, helpmeet-stay-at-home moms.  That’s how it was in my homeschool circles, and I thought it was completely right.  (I still kind of do, even though I’ve learned that there are ALWAYS exceptions to the “rule” or stereotype or whatever.)

NEVERTHELESS.  To put men and women in a box like Mr. Alberson did is a travesty and it’s completely and totally wrong.  Like Jennifer said, the lines between masculinity and femininity are rarely black and white.  I know plenty of girls (including myself) who would rather shoot a gun or get their hands dirty than sew anything, just like I know plenty of guys who like to bake and paint and – GASP – dance.

Sure, there are God-ordained roles for men and women to play, but to say that women are the weaker sex and therefore only suitable for the kitchen or taking care of the kids?

UM, HOW ABOUT NO.

The way I see it, men and women are equal.  Because of verses in the Bible that talk about submission, I totally agree that women should submit to their husbands (not all men, though).  But men have to submit to God’s authority, too, or else they’re abusing their God-given right to have authority (but not total authority) over women (which is why so. many. marriages – especially where both husband and wife are Christians – end up in the gutter).  (See Phylicia Masonheimer’s post on why Biblical submission is dangerous.)

Women aren’t meant to be only there for men to save and defer to their much smarter male lead.  Women aren’t meant to be “protection objects” or “damsels in distress.”  Women aren’t put on earth solely to be a man’s wife or have kids.  Women are not less.  A woman’s worth is NOT defined by men.

And if a woman’s worth is wrapped up in what a man thinks about her, she’s got some work to do.

Women are loved by God just as much as men, and designed by Him for specific purposes in mind – yes, for helping their husbands to raise godly children and being keepers at home, but if we’re going to tout the Proverbs 31 woman, we also need to acknowledge that she’s able to earn money and buy things that will further her income and be hospitable to people other than her husband and family.

And another thing.  These three paragraphs were especially incorrect.

Men lie to themselves and women about the sort of women they want. Women are gullible and believe the lie and become the women they think men want. Then men reject them because men never wanted those sorts of women in the first place.

How is this the woman’s fault?  I. Don’t. Understand.  Women shouldn’t change themselves for a man (because men aren’t worth it) and men shouldn’t reject women because they’re not “their type.”

And men do reject them. Look at the divorce statistics, look at the TV shows and books and articles by women desperately wondering why it’s so hard to hold on to a man. That’s a bigger problem than the purview of this letter, but you fictional female warriors are part of it.

Men rejecting women because there’s more to a woman than the pleasures of her body or her willingness to submit to his whims is wrong – and it certainly isn’t the woman’s fault.  “Fictional female warriors” are definitely part of it, but certainly not for the reason you imply.  (More on that later.)

So stop it. I’m nobody’s idea of Prince Charming, but let me do my little part to rescue you from yourselves.

SHOCKINGLY ENOUGH, MR. ALBERSON… NOT ALL WOMEN WANT TO BE RESCUED.  Rescued by God, sure, but by a fallen, sinning man?  No thank you.

(And I’m going to stop responding to specific phrases because it’s making me too mad.  I need to take a break.  Brb.)

So what’s Mr. Alberson’s point?  Why does he think that Rey and Katniss and Leia and Black Widow and River Tam have no destiny other than… what???  He doesn’t even give his readers the courtesy to explain what he thinks women in these movies should be doing instead of being the strong heroines that they are.

(The only thing he says is that women are put on earth to be rescued by men and that women having the indecency to be anything more than that “robs men of their dignity.”  How egotistical is that?!  Men and women were put on earth for many more reasons than to simply fulfill one another.  If a man or woman’s identity is wrapped up in what the opposite sex – or anyone else – thinks of them, they have some serious work to do on their true identity.  REVELATION: Maybe – just maybe – that’s why people are so unfulfilled???  Shocking, I know.)

Every. Single. One. of the women were pulled out of their comfortable environments by outside circumstances and into something greater.  Rey wanted to wait for her family to return for her.  Katniss didn’t want to be Reaped.  Leia didn’t want her planet to blow up.  Natasha didn’t want to work for the Soviet Intelligence.  River Tam wanted an education so she could help people.

These women were made stronger because of the complex circumstances they were pulled into.  They weren’t destined for what they wanted – they were destined for making their world a better place, even though they went through struggles and incredibly hard trials.

If Rey hadn’t been pulled into helping Finn escape the Alliance,  she wouldn’t have discovered the truth about her family or saved Finn’s life and helped the Resistance fight against Kylo Ren.  If Katniss hadn’t been Reaped, Panem wouldn’t have escaped the tyrannical rule of President Snow.  If Leia hadn’t been kidnapped by Darth Vader, she wouldn’t have known the truth about her family or met Han Solo or {eventually} become chief commander of the Resistance.  If Natasha hadn’t been tracked down by Clint because of her status as an assassin, the aliens would have overtaken earth and Tony probably would’ve died and so would Steve and Bucky and SHIELD/Hydra’s information would still be secret.  And don’t even get me started on River.

It’s so ironic that Mr. Alberson would pick all of these characters because the stories that they’re involved in would be so different if they were doing what they’d originally wanted to do.  (See the previous paragraph.)  They all pass the Blechdel and Sexy Lamp tests.  They’re strong, well-rounded, and important to the plot.

MUCH LIKE REAL-LIFE WOMEN.

In my opinion, the world needs more characters like this – characters that prove to women that they’re needed, wanted, and important.  This is why I write books with strong female leads.  Too many female characters in books and movies are whiny, one-dimensional, flimsy girls whose only purpose is to further the male lead’s storyline.  (See almost every action film ever, especially the highly-irritating Mission Impossible II.)

That’s what movies are telling girls, Mr. Alberson – that they’re unimportant and only suitable as pretty companions for the uber-ripped male lead.  And when directors make movies that tell girls anything other than that, they should be applauded, not condemned.

So, ladies, keep watching movies with strong female characters.  You weren’t put on earth to define a man’s dignity or satisfy him.  Guys, you could definitely benefit from it, too.  Women aren’t your playthings – they’re precious individuals made by a God who loves them dearly.  JUST LIKE YOU.

Ladies and gentlemen, your worth is found in Christ alone, and not what anyone else thinks about you.  You will never be satisfied until you discover that.

why i took off my purity ring.

{inspired by this post, and partially by this one}

{The reason I’m writing this post isn’t because I love controversy – and this post hopefully won’t be super controversial.  I just want to write about things that matter, rather than about movies or books all the time.  (Although I’ll probably be back on Friday with my thoughts on Captain America: Civil War.)  This matters to me, and this is what I’ve been thinking about lately, so here I am.}

photo (3)

here’s the picture of my ring that i couldn’t add last night bc wordpress was being stupid.  isn’t it gorgeous?

If you’re a conservative, homeschooling Christian, there’s a 98% chance you’ve heard of purity rings – and there’s a 76% chance you’re wearing one right now.  Even if you’re not, there’s a 62% chance you know what they are.  (And those percentages are all accurate.  Even if I made them up. *wink*)

I grew up learning about purity.  I read all the books.  I participated in all the Bible studies.  I signed the paper (and I’m pretty sure I even gave it to my dad).  I didn’t get the ring for my thirteenth birthday because my mom forgot, so I got it for my sixteenth.

By the time I was twelve, I knew all about saving myself for marriage.  (At least, I thought I did.)  I swore I’d never kiss before marriage, never get into a relationship that wasn’t destined for marriage, and that I’d probably never date, either.

I’m still sticking to those commitments (except maybe the dating one – we’re a little fuzzy on what courtship looks like around here, especially as my siblings and I are getting older).  I have no intention of starting a more-than-casual relationship with a guy unless I’m pretty sure he’s a possibility.  I’m going to save my first kiss for my wedding day (and everything after that too).

But I’m done hiding behind my purity ring.  I’m done with the legalism and I’m done with the completely unbiblical stereotypes it puts on me.

Maybe it’s just me, but the purity ring thing always made me think differently about people.  When I was younger, I would subconsciously judge someone based on whether or not they had one.  If they did, fantastic – they’re pure.  If they didn’t, well… they had some learning to do.  (After all, how could you claim to keep yourself pure for marriage and not wear a purity ring?  GOSH.)  And if a guy wore it… WOW.  Hashtag marriage material, amiright???  (I knew guys whose mother forbid them from wearing them because rings were too feminine.  My sister and I walked away from that question wondering how wedding rings were different… and how wearing a ring deprived a man of his masculinity.)

When I consider how I used to think, it makes me laugh – and shudder a little.  I was a really judgmental teenager.  (Oh if only I could go back and give my teenage self a good talk – and a slap across the face!)

I’m not a perfect person.  I haven’t done everything right in my relationships with guys.  I’ve made quite a few mistakes.  Not purity-shattering mistakes, but things I still cringe over and issues I wish I’d handled differently.

It wasn’t until last year that I started thinking really about my purity ring.  I usually wore it on my left hand, but I switched it to my right for a conference (so none of the guys would think that I was married or engaged or whatever).

That’s what got me thinking about what it really meant.  I asked myself over and over, Why did I do that?  Am I looking for attention from guys?  Am I wanting to proclaim to the world that I’m pure, but I’m available?  (*wink*)

Let me tell you something I’ve learned: Those are all bad reasons.  It should say something that one of the first things I thought was that taking off my purity ring would encourage guys or bring unwanted attention to myself.

My desire to remain pure is mainly between me and God – and my future husband.

I’m not saving myself because Josh Harris or the Botkin sisters or Sarah Mally told me to.  I’m not wearing a purity ring is the “right thing to do” or because most of my Christian friends did it.

I’m doing it because I’ve been convicted by God.  I’m not going to settle for less than His best for me.  I’m not going to compromise.

More than that, I’m not going to sit around and wait for a guy to knock on my front door.  I don’t like the assumption that “waiting” looks like me in my late thirties, sitting by a window in a rocking chair and crocheting.

I have a life to live.  I have a calling.  God put me on this earth for a reason, and while marriage is a wonderful thing that I’m really looking forward to… it’s not my main goal in life.

My only desire is to glorify my Savior while I’m here – nothing less.  If writing novels glorifies Him, so be it.  If marrying a godly guy and having a few children with him glorifies God, so be it.

I’m not here to bring honor to myself.  All of my actions should be for Him and Him alone.  (I already encourage too much exultation of myself because of my wicked pride.)

I still think about my purity ring, even though it sometimes gets lost in the jumble of jewelry on my bedside table.  My ring was always too big, so I’d spin it around on my finger when I needed to fidget.

To be completely honest, that’s actually the main reason I took it off that last time – my finger always somehow got smaller during the winter, and I was afraid I’d lose it.  I was afraid I’d lose it at one of our orchestra’s five Christmas concerts, so I took it off.  Then I just never put it on again.  I thought about putting it back on a few times, and it made me think about why I was wearing it in the first place.  Coming to all of the above conclusions reaffirmed why I didn’t feel like I had to wear it.  It’s been seven months now and I sometimes move my thumb to spin it around before remembering it isn’t there anymore.

Taking off my purity ring wasn’t a huge deal.  It wasn’t an open rebellion of what I’d always held dear – actually the opposite.

Since I’ve taken off my ring, I can tell that my commitment has gotten more intimate – more precious, almost.  I haven’t felt the need to proclaim to the world my purity in a long time, or for more conservative girls to judge me while I’m casually talking with one of my guy friends (whose friendships I highly value).  My commitment is strictly between me and God, unless someone asks or the topic comes up.

It’s incredibly freeing and I’m so grateful.

Disclaimer: This is my personal decision and I’m not trying to encourage you to do the same.  If you’ve made a commitment to stay pure for your future spouse, I applaud you.  If you’ve decided to wear a ring to show that, I still applaud you.  Purity rings are a wonderful thing – they’re just not for me right now.  I may slip mine back on at some point in the future, but it probably won’t be any time soon.  Right now, I’m focusing on God more than my relationship with my future husband.  I’m focusing on not having any other gods before Him.  And, like Grace said in the post I linked to above, I’m focusing on learning that “having Him is everything, not a means to the life we think He would want us to have. … I already have Him, and He is everything.”

P.S. I mentioned legalism and unbiblical stereotypes earlier, but didn’t go into what I meant.  If you’d like to hear more, I have a ton of pent-up opinions I’d be more than happy to share with you guys.  (If you want them, that is.  That one would definitely be controversial, lol.)  Let me know in the comments!

movies i don’t like.

Since I hit a wall in my studying (they literally just told me to write a completed manuscript – aka an entire novel – for this course. shoot me now.), I’ve decided to write about movies I don’t like.  Because procrastination is what I do best.

My friend Haley tells me that I always say movies are “SO GOOD” and whenever we’re talking about movies that I inevitably say “OH MY GOSH I LOVED THAT MOVIE.”  So like a year or two ago, she asked me, “Are there any movies you don’t like?”  And I was like, “As a matter of fact, yes.”  And this post has been in drafts in my mind ever since.

In case you guys didn’t notice already, I really like movies.  I mean, I really like movies.  Quite a few of my birthdays involve going to see movies, and I also love to just randomly watch movies with my friends.  I’ll basically watch anything.  I’ve tried all different genres, ratings, actors, etc, and I have quite a few favorites.  (Favorite genre is probably rom-com, favorite actor is Stanley Tucci {oh gosh and Domhnall Gleeson}, and favorite actress is probably Emma Stone.  Which means one of my favorite-favorite-favorite movies is Easy A, because it’s ALL OF THE ABOVE, but I can’t recommend it without a disclaimer because of Content.)  Anyway.

HOWEVER.

I only love good movies.  If I think a movie is plotless or has zero character development or has too much objectionable content or just if I’m not in the mood when I watch it the first time, I’ll avoid it like the plague and basically hate it for the rest of my life.  (And trust me, I’m good at hating/avoiding movies.  See my first Harry Potter post.)

Don’t be offended if you love these movies.  I love movies that my siblings really hate (like Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit and various indie Christian films), so I get it.  It’s okay to have different preferences.  It’s what makes people unique.

But this is my blog, so I’m going to rant for the next three thousand words about different movies I really don’t like.  *puts on sunglasses*

So here’s a long overdue list of movies I don’t like, in no particular order.  Feel free to rant back at me in the comments.

Big Hero 6.jpg

i love this fan art, though.  *thumbs up emoji*

Big Hero 6

No joke, the first thing I thought when I heard about this movie was “Where are the first five movies???”  And it’s confused me ever since.

*sigh*  I know a lot of you guys like this movie.  I really do.  And I liked it when I first saw it.  But the second and third time (and fourth and fifth – the kids I nanny used to watch it once or twice a week with me), it just wasn’t that great.  And I love a movie that I can watch over and over and over and get more out of every time.  But… I honestly can’t say why I don’t like this movie.  It just seemed like the premise was so great, but executed so terribly.

The beginning with the bot fight was awesome, but everything seemed to go downhill from there.  The only character I cared about died in the first fifteen minutes of the film in a super-cliche way (*shakes fist*), and I wasn’t able to connect to anybody after that.  (Plus, the whole becoming-superheroes montage seemed a little contrived.)  And then the bad guy wasn‘t really dead?  He survived the fire?  Never seen that one before.

I don’t like movies about prodigies, so that’s probably why I was unable to suspend my disbelief so often in this movie.  Hiro’s, what, twelve?  And he’s in life-and-death situations with a super-scary bad guy?  Where’s his aunt when all of this is going on?  Wouldn’t she know where her nephew is, especially after he’s the only living one?  Wouldn’t he be on SUCH a short leash?  I don’t get it.

Overall, I think the movie is funny and some parts even moved me to tears (Tadashi’s “I’m not giving up on you” sequence kills me every single time), but it just seemed “meh.”

Man of Steel

Man of Steel (and Superman {1978})

Proof that I’m right by disliking this franchise is evidenced in the fact that whenever I tell people I don’t like it, they usually say something along the lines of, “But it’s so good!  AND HENRY CAVILL IS SO HOT.”

*rolling eyes emoji*

Allow me to tell you a thing.  Contrary to popular thought, I don’t watch shows/movies/whatever based solely on the hotness of the actors.  (Shocking, I know.)  It’s not a bad reason to watch a show, it’s just not one of MY reasons.  (It’s definitely a plus, though – don’t get me wrong.  I love me some hot actors.)

SO, when people watch Man of Steel or Superman and shun me for not watching it just because he’s hot… well, that turns me off it even more.

Anyway, tbh, I just thought Superman was lame.  The ending was just plain stupid.  One does not simply fly around the earth and reverse its orbit to make time go backwards.  NOPE.  *flips a table*

And in Man of Steel, when Clark had the big fight with Zod… gosh, seriously?  They leveled HALF of Metropolis just for Clark to snap his neck in a train station (or whatever it was)?  NOPE.  *flips another table*

Also, I think Batman v Superman is going to be lame.  I’ll probably go see it, but I don’t think I’ll enjoy it.  Superman would totally crush Batman in like five seconds, but all Batman needs to do is whip out some kryptonite and Superman’s done.  The battle would last five minutes.  (Unless there’s a secret plot having to do with the so very cute Jesse Eisenberg that they’re not telling us about…)

(But Henry Cavill is super cute.  I will give you guys that.)

home aloneHome Alone

Okay, so the premise of this movie is what I don’t like.  I don’t think they could’ve made it ALL the way to… well, wherever they were going, without Kevin.  I have friends with twelve siblings.  They don’t just “lose a kid.”  (Although my friend with eight siblings got left at church after our choir concert once because they had three cars there and the three drivers all thought somebody else had him…  We had to take him home, with a stop at Dairy Queen.)

Also, I was just never able to watch those robbers get hurt.  It’s scary and painful and it physically hurts me to watch.  THE FRIED HAND ON THE DOORKNOB.  HOWWWWW?!

The Hobbit

The Hobbit {1,2,&3}

Honestly, all I have to say about this one is that it isn’t as good as the Lord of the Rings trilogy.  Not nearly as good.  I understood why Peter Jackson wanted to expand the book, and where he got the information from, and I defended him to my friends who thought it was stupid and that he was just trying to get more money.  BUT.  You can’t just change stuff that’s crucial to the plot.  AND MAY I JUST SAY THAT CGI DOES NOT MAKE A MOVIE.

I still love my Martin Freeman and Benadryl Cucumberpatch.  (And Aidan Turner!)  Don’t get me wrong – it had some amazing parts in it.  (I’m a firm believer that Tauriel should’ve been in the movies.  They needed more estrogen.)  And I’ll definitely watch them again (probably the extended editions, because I’ve heard those are better).

But the fact that even Peter didn’t know what he was doing sometimes shows that the trilogy was basically a waste of time for all of those amazing actors.  They should’ve taken a step back, planned the films for a few more years, and then shot it.

dark knight (2).jpg

The Dark Knight Trilogy

First of all, this series was hard to watch because, hello, it’s LAURIE.  Not to mention JACK KELLY.  (Teehee.)  IN A BATMAN SUIT.

Anyway, the first movie bored me, the second one was too dark, and the third one was my favorite simply because I liked the story and my precious bean Joseph Gordon-Levitt was in it.  I wrote an entire blog post about the last movie (or the trilogy; I can’t remember) after I watched it for the first time, but it got stuck in drafts.

I think I just didn’t like the overall storyline.  Bruce Wayne seemed too much like a rich-guy-turned-rich-thug, and there wasn’t any character development with him ’til he got beat up and fell in love with Selena What’sherface in Dark Knight Rises.

It just seemed like the whole thing dragged until the third movie.  I like me some character development, people.  And it just felt like Bruce Wayne was running around and doing nothing except basically destroying Gotham from the inside.  And that’s not very heroic.

So I guess I’m just missing out on some huge factor.  Would someone like to explain to me why Batman is a hero?  Why should look up to him?  Why should any of the citizens of Gotham put him on a pedestal?  WHY?!

Plus, I know that line in the end of The Dark Knight is iconic, but… seriously?

“Why’s he running, Dad?”
“Because we have to chase him.”

Um… excuse me?  (But, hey, it’s adorable Nathan Gamble, so I’ll allow it.)

Basically, I’m on John’s side of the great Hank and John Batman Debate.  “Batman’s just a rich guy with an affinity for bats, who’s playing out his insane fantasy – HOW IS THAT HEROIC?!”  (That song is now stuck in my head.  Thank you.)

{Note: I do love the soundtrack on this one.  Unashamed to admit that I know every single note in The Dark Knight Rises soundtrack.}

{Note The Second: Also, this is the third movie in the “superhero” genre that I’ve bashed.  HMM.  I do love superhero movies, but mainly just Marvel movies.  However, there’s one Marvel franchise that I really can’t stand, which is…}

Iron Man.jpg

{when he said this, the first thing that came to my mind was: what kind of stupid, egocentric maniac would tell people his real identity???}

Iron Man {1,2,&3}

M’KAY.  My first Marvel movie was Spider-Man, back in the late 2000’s.  (And I didn’t see the other movies ’til like last year.  Thought they were kind of atrocious.  Huge Amazing Spider-Man fan right here.)  Then I saw Captain America: The First Avenger, then I saw Avengers.  So Iron Man wasn’t my first Marvel movie, unlike a lot of people.  (It came out in 2008, so if you’ve been a fan of Marvel for a loooong time, you probably saw that one {lolz, or The Incredible Hulk} first.)

And I just… no.

I talked about Tony Stark a little in my post about how the presidential election is like Captain America: Civil War.”I’ve always disliked him.  In my opinion, he’s too prideful and his “redemption” never lasts.”  Which is true.  Every single one of the Iron Man movies have the same plot – jerky rich dude Tony Stark has a personal crisis and defeats the bad guy while finding redemption.

AND THEN HE’S BACK TO HIS JERKY SELF IN THE NEXT MOVIE.  INCLUDING THE AVENGERS MOVIES.  WHYYYYYY.  *flips a table*

I don’t know about you guys, but when a character changes in a movie, I’d like to see them stay changed.  I greatly appreciate – and even encourage – some back-sliding, because that shows that they’re human.  (I’m even doing it in my novel, The Art of Letting Go.)  The character needs to keep learning from their mistakes and continue to progress in their overall storyline that spans their entire life.

But you can’t just use the same storyline over and over again and expect nobody to notice.

I get that a lot of people like Tony because he’s funny.  I think he’s hilarious at times.  But having one positive attribute doesn’t make a well-rounded character.

how to train your dragon.jpg

How To Train Your Dragon {1&2}

(I’m bashing another favorite and you all hate me, I can just feel it.  Great.)

This one I just… meh.  I really understand why people like it.  It’s a great story.  Hiccup is hilarious.  Astrid is great.  All the other vikings and dragons are fine.  And the plot is pretty decent.

But it just wasn’t for me.

I liked the first one, but I could barely pay attention the second time.  (Here we are again, going back to watching movies several times.)  I could hardly watch the second one because it just felt boring.  The plot of the first one was fine, but the second one just felt contrived.  Plus, you can’t just kill off a main character for no reason.  It’s been ages since I watched it, but I remember being pretty ticked that that character had gotten killed off because of a lame reason.  (Was the big bad dragon already killed?  Was it for Evil Toothless?  I can’t remember.)

It just seemed… fine.  It’s just not my thing.  I loved the soundtrack, though.  John Powell is pretty amazing.

Doctor Who.jpg

Doctor Who

Don’t kill me, Morgan.

I may not have seen enough of this to know that it’s amazing, but I’ve seen my fair share of episodes, and it’s just… okay.  When I first discovered it in like 2010, I was totally obsessed with it.  And I’d only seen two episodes!  However, my dad didn’t like it, so we didn’t watch any more.  (But I still harbored a love for it and saved pictures on my computer and memorized entire scenes.  “Question: Who’s got the Pandorica?  Answer: I do.  NEXT QUESTION.”)

I can’t say I’ve never really been “into” the sci-fi genre, because I have, but Doctor Who just never did it for me.  I think I made up what I thought it was in my mind, and then when I watched more than those two episodes it wasn’t as good as I’d made it out to be.  The Doctor is great (Ten’s my favorite), the companions are okay, but the storylines are just… boring.  I can never get through a whole episode without checking my phone or pulling out my laptop to do something while I watch it.  Plus, some of the episodes are just downright creepy, and ever-so-slightly demonic.  (And those are always the episodes my dad walks in on.  *facepalm*)

I still like the show, though, and I even have Doctor Who-inspired things (like a notebook and even the fourth doctor’s scarf), but it’s not something I’d get as insanely into as other TV shows.  I’ll probably still watch it, it’s just not my favorite.

Love Actually.jpg

Love Actually

This one I don’t actually hate.  I just dislike it.  I have a lame memory of watching it (we watched it the night my dad resigned his position as elder and told the church we’d be leaving), so that might add to it.  It’s a decent movie, but some of the storylines are just absolute rubbish.  It’s R, so it’s got some issues.  My precious child Martin Freeman had the worst plotline (I could only watch one of his scenes because the rest were SO BAD), and Hugh Grant (my mom’s long actor crush and basically the reason we watched the movie) probably had the best one.  Plus, there’s this guy who likes his best friend’s wife and filmed their wedding for totally selfish reasons and that’s just not okay.

The only thing that saved it (and the only reason I’d watch it again) was the fabulous cast.  Hugh Grant, Colin Firth, Alan Rickman, Emma Thompson, Liam Neeson, Laura Linney, Kiera Knightley, THE ABSOLUTELY ADORABLE THOMAS BRODIE-SANGSTER…

This movie can be summed up in four words: Incredible cast, horrible plot.  I don’t understand why people love it so much.

{Note: I freely admit that I just told my sister that she needed to watch it with ClearPlay, though.  Because the actors, man.  And the plots are all stupid, but it’s almost that good kind of fluff that’s so stupid that it’s actually enjoyable.  So basically, out of all of the movies in this list, this is the one I dislike the least.}

Honorable Mentions (movies I hated and now I kinda like)

Princess Bride.jpg

The Princess Bride

Give me a minute here, guys.  I know this is a classic (and insanely popular in the homeschool circles, for whatever reason), but I just didn’t get the humor the first time I saw it.  I “liked” it, but I wasn’t immediately in love with it like some of my siblings were.  It wasn’t until my second viewing that I really got why it’s so popular (because it’s ironic and outrageous and hilarious).

Indiana Jones.jpg

Indiana Jones

I can hear you now.  “ANOTHER CLASSIC?!  ASHLEY, STOP BASHING THE CLASSICS.”

Heh.

My first introduction to Indiana Jones was waaaaayyyyy back in like 2005, when my dad found Temple of Doom on TV.  He was like, “Oh, this is such a good movie!  Let’s watch it!” And then proceeded to turn off the screen during half of it because of the language and the totally scary scenes.  (It’s got some freaky voodoo stuff, too.)  I was completely freaked out, and I hated the language, but my siblings loved it (despite the fact that all we really saw was the minecar scene in the end).  So we eventually watched the other three, and I was the only one in my family who didn’t like them.  I thought the first one was okay, thought the third one was boring, and the fourth one was stupid.  (He survives an atomic bomb because he’s hiding in a fridge?  WHAT?!)

However, after I really fell in love with Harrison Ford (thank you, Jack Ryan films *swoons*), I decided to go back and watch them.  I’ve been watching them with the kid I babysit (he’s four so maaaaybe he’s a little young, but his parents let him, so that’s good enough for me), and I actually liked the first one.  The jury’s still out on whether I think they’re too content-y (or pass The Sexy Lamp Test – the first one totally failed it and my inner feminist RIOTED), but I think I’ll like them.

Star Wars.jpg

Star Wars

If my followers count goes way down after this post, I’ll know it’s because of this.

GUYS DON’T UNFOLLOW ME.  I HAVE SEEN THE LIGHT.  I NO LONGER HATE THIS SERIES.

used to hate it, though.  I hated the costumes, hated the insanely 70’s-looking everything, and I hated the plot.  The characters had no backbone, and although there were moments that I enjoyed, they were few and far between.  I saw all of the original trilogy before Phantom Menace came out (I can’t even remember the first time I saw them), and my siblings have always been obsessed with them.  (We even had to take a break from them for like a year because they wouldn’t stop quoting and/or referencing them.  Needless to say, I was insanely happy.)

Then Phantom Menace came out, and it was okay.  I saw Attack of the Clones in the theater (yes, I’m old), and my dad saw Revenge of the Sith in the theater and decided it was too PG-13 for us (I was only ten at the time, so it’s completely understandable).  We saw an edited version about a year later, and I thought it was okay.

Fast-forward to last year, when I was just “meh” about the whole series.  My siblings wanted to watch all of them again before Force Awakens, and I made it through most of them.  (I was so proud of myself!)  Get this: I cared about it so little that when I accidentally saw a spoiler on Instagram the day before it came out, I didn’t close my app and cry – I went looking for more spoilers.  And then taunted my siblings with them.  (Yes, I’m mean; I thought we established that earlier.)

We planned on seeing Force Awakens with my cousins, aunt, uncle, and grandparents the Monday after it came out.  That day, some of my cousins still hadn’t seen one of them yet, so they watched it and I took a nap because I really didn’t care.  I thought it was going to be lame.  While we were in the (insanely long) line to see it, I kept asking questions like, “This is the one about Captain Kirk, right?  The space one?” and “Oh this one’s got Eomer in it?!  YASSSSS.”  And I relished the weird looks I got from the fifty people in line around me.

But then I saw it and really really really got blown away.  And now I’ve seen the error of my ways and am watching them again with the aforementioned four-year-old.  And I actually like them (even though I’ll probably never love the new{er} trilogy).  So you can re-follow me.

Okay, this is long enough.  : P

Feel free to rant at me in the comments, or list some movies that people usually love but that you despise!  (And if you’re gonna rant… know that I have my CAPS LOCK ON.)

“yer a wizard, harry.”

So this is the Harry Potter post you all have been waiting for!  Read it or don’t read it; comment or don’t comment.  I don’t care.  These are just my thoughts on the subject and the conclusions I’ve personally come to after deciding to read the Harry Potter series.  (Read my first post about it here, which I wrote soon after I finished the first three books.  I’ll probably unintentionally repeat some of what I said in that post, but it might be good for you {and me!} to compare my thoughts then with my thoughts now.)

All was well.

-J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

harrypotter.jpgWith that quote, the book series that I’d been completely obsessed with for the past five months came to a close.  I shut the book, hugged it to my chest, and cried and cried and cried.  Not because it was sad or anything (okay, that was part of the reason), but because it was over.  This amazing book series that I’d fallen in love with had ended.

AND I DIDN’T KNOW HOW TO DEAL WITH ANYTHING ANYMORE.

I hadn’t even expected to get into it that much.  I only personally knew of a few people who had read it (and loved it).  Most of my friends were completely against it.  I had been against it, too.  Then I entered that awkward phase of my life when my dad started letting me make my own decisions about the stuff I let into my mind (and dealing with the consequences I bring on myself).  (If you’re not there yet, you’re probably looking forward to it.  It’s incredible but it’s also incredibly daunting.  Making these kinds of decisions for myself has been amazing… but it’s also been hard.  Sometimes I wish my dad would just tell me what to do sometimes.  It’s hard to know what’s good and bad when you’re just starting to decide where your convictions are.  As wise old Uncle Ben once said, “With great power comes great responsibility.”  *end unintentional tangent*)

From everything I’d read about the series, I thought it was some kind of evil witchcraft book that made you become obsessed with (and possibly even unconsciously join) the occult.  I thought all of the characters were evil and knew that they were doing wrong things all the time.  Furthermore, I thought the series was dark and evil and had no redeemable qualities at all.  (It was, after all, about wizards and witches.)

harrypotter12Boy howdy, was I wrong.

This just goes to show that you should take everything with a grain of salt.  Either Edgar Allan Poe or Benjamin Franklin said, “Believe only half of what you see and nothing that you hear.”  Just like you should always double-check what you’re hearing in church with what the Bible actually says, you should probably align what people say with what God says because people are biased.

For the first twenty years of my life, Harry Potter wasn’t in the gray area at all.  In my mind, it was completely evil and there weren’t any good lessons to be learned from it.

Then, someone recommended it a year or so after my dad started letting me make decisions for myself, and I asked him if I could read it and he said yes and the rest is history.

I really can’t explain how much I loved this series.  I haven’t connected so much to a series in such a long time.  Also, believe it or not, this series was THE BEST “secular” series I’ve ever read because it had so many allusions to Biblical lessons.  (Notice that I said “allusion” rather than “allegory.”  The Harry Potter series is not an allegory and should never be called one.)  In some respects, it was even better than some of the explicitly Christian books I’ve read because it contained everything I’ve always wanted from Christian fiction but never get.  I kid you not.

So why did I love it so much?  Well, sit back and I’ll tell you.

The Magic

harrypotter6Before I get into all of the amazing things about it, let me clear something up.  The Harry Potter series does not have real-life, occult magic in it.  Occult magic (such as séances and witchcraft rituals and demonic powers) very much exists and we should definitely stay away from it.  However, John Granger says in his book Finding God in Harry Potter, “The magic in Harry Potter is no more likely to encourage real-life witchcraft than time travel in science fiction novels encourages readers to seek passage to previous centuries.”

Others have explained the type of magic in Harry Potter better than I can, but my (extremely simplified) explanation of the difference between the magic in Harry Potter and the very real, very evil magic in the world, is that, rather learning how to do something that is, until that time, unknown to them (as with Wiccan rituals), the characters in this series merely learn how to control something that has always been a part of them.  They didn’t have to learn how to invite the magic into them or whatever – it was always a part of them.  (Much like Elsa from Frozen, whose icy powers were never explained other than the fact that “she’s always had them,” and Mary Poppins, who can make toys and bedsheets do her bidding by snapping her fingers and can fly around the world and jump into chalk drawings.)   For instance, in the very first book, pre-Hogwarts Harry misuses his gift because he’s angry at his cousin.  Later in the series, it’s revealed that Tom Riddle did the same thing to some of his fellow orphans at the orphanage.

My favorite explanation came from a Christianity Today article entitled “Redeeming Harry Potter.”

If Rowling intended Harry Potter as Wiccan propaganda, I’d be the first to jump ship. But the author is emphatic: she doesn’t believe in magic. So how can she be promoting witchcraft as a religion? Instead, she uses magic as a vehicle for the plot—a literary device for the story’s themes. … Harry wasn’t taught how to be a wizard, he was taught how to control something that was already inside of him. He doesn’t invoke dark powers or evil spirits to do his bidding, he simply uses his genetic abilities (much like a superpower) for good. C.S. Lewis, in defending the “magic” in his Narnia books, calls this “Incantational Magic.” … Ultimately, the source of the characters’ powers isn’t really addressed, and that’s fine for the purpose of the story. Rowling places far more emphasis on how the individuals choose to use their powers and abilities in relation to others. Magic has traditionally been used in this way as a metaphor in classic literature, as something that can hold meaning in our own lives.

Now, obviously, if you’ve got a problem with where the magic comes from, you’ll have a problem with the books (which is the case with some of my relatives).  But since I’ve researched J.K. Rowling (aka Jo)’s intentions with the magic (she only uses it as a plot device and she doesn’t believe in the occult {read this article if you don’t believe me}), and I know she often gets annoyed when people accuse her of putting the occult in there.  So that’s good enough for me.

(Side Note: The first book is only called The Sorcerer’s Stone in the US.  Everywhere else, it’s The Philosopher’s Stone.  The only reason it was changed in the US is because the US publisher, Arther Levine, thought that no one would buy a children’s book with “philosophy” in the title.)

Good vs. Evil

One of the greatest strengths of the Potter series is its treatment of right and wrong.  Rowling loves playing with duality in the characters, showing that we’re all capable of good or evil, yet always clearly distinguishing between the two.  Things aren’t always as they seem in Harry Potter, but we’re always clear on right and wrong.  It is, in fact, a key line to look for in Goblet of Fire, when wise mentor Professor Dumbledore explains to Harry that he will face the choice between “doing what is right and what is easy.” (Russ Breimeier, Redeeming Harry Potter)

harrypotter11This was seriously one of my favorite aspects of the books.  As John Granger explains in Finding God in Harry Potter, the battle in this series is between “good guys who serve truth, beauty, and virtue, and bad guys who lust after power and private gain.”  The central conflictis between good and bad, specifically between the descendants Godric Gryffindor (Harry) and Salazar Slytherin (Voldemort).  (Jo hasn’t confirmed that Harry’s a descendant of Gryffindor, but I think it’s a given and I’m betting it’ll be revealed in Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.)  The symbolism of this is all over the place.  Just look at Gryffindor’s symbol (a lion) versus Slytherin’s (a snake).  Sound familiar?

But, just like in real life, the good guys aren’t all good (e.g. Peter Pettigrew, a Gryffindor) and the bad guys aren’t all bad (e.g. Reglulus Black and Draco Malfoy, both Slytherins and, um, hello, Severus Snape).  Unlike a lot of the books I read, none of the characters are perfect.  There isn’t a Mary Sue or a Gary Stu to be had in the entire series.  Every single character has their faults.  For instance, Harry idolizes his father, thinking him to be the model of perfection, and it’s only when he relives one of Snape’s memories that he realizes this is not the case.  Ron is a bit of a selfish brat at times, Hermione can be unforgiving, and even Harry himself performed a few Unforgivable Curses (the Cruciatus Curse three times and the Imperius Curse once).  Even Dumbledore, who is one of the wisest characters I’ve ever come across in any of the books I’ve ever read, definitely has his faults.

Like every human being, they struggle with how to act in situations.  As Dumbledore tells Harry once, “Dark times lie ahead of us and there will be a time when we must choose between what is easy and what is right.”  Even though they’re conflicted regarding decisions most of the time, Harry, Ron, and Hermione always do the right thing.  Even Neville my precious cinnamon roll child, who has the most reason to hate Voldemort (whose underling tortured his parents almost to death and was successful in the destruction of their minds), still fights for what’s right and never acts out in anger.

However, the lines between good and evil are clearly drawn.  Whenever Voldemort was in any of the books, I couldn’t help but feel utter horror at everything he did.  As we learn in the last two books, Voldemort is only able to do everything he does because he’s willing to kill – “the supreme act of evil,” as someone else in the series defines it.  “That which Voldemort does not value, he takes no trouble to comprehend.  Of house-elves and children’s tales, of love, loyalty, and innocence, Voldemort knows and understands nothing.  Nothing.”  As Dumbledore tells Harry in Deathly Hallows, “Do not pity the dead, Harry.  Pity the living, and, above all, those who live without love.”  His incapacity to understand love is his ultimate downfall.

Like Tolkien, Rowling’s depiction of evil is incredibly Augustinian. Early Church father St. Augustine defines evil as a perversion of the good. He also emphasizes that evil is not an equal match of the Good, but far weaker. As something good becomes twisted and warped, it moves closer to nonbeing. Lord Voldemort is really a perfect example of this. As he becomes more deeply entrenched in evil, he becomes less and less human, less and less alive. The acts of murder and cruelty he carries out literally tear apart his soul making his being less whole. He is a shadow of a man. The quest for power without goodness is truly a journey toward pathetic and grotesque brokenness as is portrayed in the King’s Cross chapter in The Deathly Hallows when Harry is face to face with a visual depiction of Voldemort’s soul. Like the White Witch in Lewis’ The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, evil according to the Potter books cannot even comprehend the great strength of love and is ultimately destroyed by it.  (Haley Stewart, Why Your Kids Need to Read Harry Potter)

Which brings me to my next point…

Love

harrypotter2In stark contrast to this is the love that is shown to Harry and everyone else on the good side.  In the very first chapter of the very first book, there is an example of John 15:13 love.  Harry’s mother, Lily, sacrificed her life for Harry’s, which is the reason he’s still alive in the beginning of the first book.  You don’t need a neon sign to see it.  Dumbledore tells Harry in The Philosopher’s Stone, “Your mother died to save you. If there is one thing Voldemort cannot understand, it is love. He didn’t realize that love as powerful as your mother’s for you leaves its own mark. Not a scar, no visible sign… to have been loved so deeply, even though the person who loved us is gone, will give us some protection forever.”  Later, in Order of the Phoenix, Dumbledore explains, “But I knew too where Voldemort was weak. And so I made my decision. You would be protected by an ancient magic of which he knows, which he despises, and which he has always, therefore, underestimatedto his cost. I am speaking, of course, of the fact that your mother died to save you. She gave you a lingering protection he never expected, a protection that flows in your veins to this day.”

This John 15:13 love is repeated over and over and over again in the books.  Harry risks his life for Ginny Weasley in the second book, then again in the last book.

Harry is shown love, too, by the Weasleys.  Since he doesn’t have a loving family, they take him in over the holidays almost every year so he doesn’t have to go home to the Dursleys.  They treat him like he’s a member of the family, both by giving him gifts at Christmas (which, as explained in the first book, are his first Christmas gifts ever {which made me totally sob}) and making him help clean their house for a wedding in Deathly Hallows.

harrypotter10.jpgInstead of going on and on (trust me, I can), I’ll just highlight one more of my favorite examples of love in this series.  In the sixth book, one of the characters has his face slightly disfigured by a werewolf.  His mother is afraid that his fiance won’t marry him anymore because of the scarring.  She insists that she will, which makes another character, Tonks, turn to the man she loves, Remus Lupin (a werewolf) my other precious cinnamon roll child, and say, “You see!  She still wants to marry him, even though he’s been bitten!  She doesn’t care!”  Lupin insists that the cases are different, but Tonks shuts him down.  “But I don’t care either, I don’t care!  I’ve told you a million times!”  (And then Lupin insists that she needs someone “young and whole” and Mrs. Weasley says “But she wants you.  And after all, Remus, young and whole men do not necessarily remain so.”  And then I started crying again.)  Tonks insists that she loves Remus for who he is, even though he thinks he’s unable to be loved.  Which just goes to show that there will always be someone out there who will love you, despite how unlovable you think you are.  (#thingsHarryPottertaughtme)

Themes

Dang, y’all.  The themes!  Love was just the beginning.

Somebody asked me via text what I thought of the series and what I learned from it, so I let them have it.  Here’s what I said:

Well I love the importance the books place on joy and that the act of simply being happy can overcome anything (“Happiness can be found even in the darkest of times if one remembers to turn on the light“) and the amazing lessons of friendship and loyalty and “It does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live” and HELLO the importance of living with love (bc living without love ended up being Voldemort’s downfall). There’s such an emphasis on family, too, and the importance family can have on your life. Harry was raised by his relatives who didn’t love him at all and didn’t realize that there were good people in the world who loved their families until he met the Weasleys. And everybody always points out how Hermione is such a bookworm and a study freak but it’s true and I kinda wish I’d had her as a role model when I was younger. And HELLO the many many maaaaany instances of John 15:13 love that is praised over and over and over. And Dumbledore’s insistence that even though something’s happening in your head, it doesn’t make it any less real. And his other words of wisdom to Harry that we should pity those who live without love. And Sirius’s quote that says something like that we all live with darkness and light inside of us and it’s the part that we act on that defines us. And then there’s my favorite character, who taught me that no matter what you think is wrong with you, someone will always be there to love you despite it.  And then the friendships in the stories that only grow deeper through trials and the love that’s shown to everyone and I don’t even know I just have so many feelings.

(Yeah.  Don’t ask me questions like that {especially via text} if you don’t want me to fangirl all over you.)

In addition to all of that…

harrypotter13.jpgLaughter – Rowling places a distinct importance of laughter and happiness in the books.  Someone on Tumblr said, “Happiness isn’t just a feeling—it’s a weapon. Look at how harry and his friends fight: with riddikulus, laughter stymies a creature made of fear; with expecto patronum, the very memory of happiness beats back the grim forces of depression.” (See the rest of their post here.)  (Also, may I just add that Lupin originally taught Harry and the gang those spells and I just think that’s significant.)

Truth – These books also have so many good lessons about truth and the consequences of lying.  In the sixth book, Harry finds a spellbook owned by the Half-Blood Prince.  Hermione is against him using any of the spells written in the book because he doesn’t know who the owner really is, and when Harry ignores her warning, it almost leads to death for one of his classmates.  As Dumbledore says in the first book, the truth “is a beautiful and terrible thing, and should therefore be treated with great caution.”

harrypotter4.jpgCourage – Harry and his friends learn so much about bravery in this series.  They face many shiver-inducing circumstances, but they don’t back down.  (Well, {spoiler} except for Ron That One Time in Deathly Hallows, but he comes back with a firmer resolve to be brave.)  Especially Neville, who learns the most about bravery from book one.  (“It takes a great deal of bravery to stand up to our enemies, but just as much to stand up to our friends.” – Albus Dumbledore)

Society – I was watching a scene from Half-Blood Prince and this comment really struck me: “Draco Malfoy’s character just shows how society shapes an individual. He was born to a racist father, and spent his childhood in the midst of people who considered Muggles [normal people without magic] to be beneath them. He was taught that money and power was everything from his childhood. Considering such an upbringing, he actually turned out to be a real gem of a person.”  (And I think his character was more dimensional in the last three movies than in the last two books.  In the books, he was scared of what he’d promised to do, but we see it more in the movies and the inner turmoil he suffers through.)

The Value of Human Life – Just like Harry’s mother sacrifices her life for Harry’s, the value of others’ lives is explicitly shown.  Nobody was worth less than anyone else.  Even Hermione fought hard for the freedom of house elves, even though they were literally made to be servants.  Every death is accounted for and mourned (which leads to a lot of sobbing, both from the characters and the reader).  “We’re all human, aren’t we? Every human life is worth the same, and worth saving.”  (Kingsley Shacklebolt, Deathly Hallows.)

harrypotter3.gif

In Conclusion

“Wherever we see beauty, light, truth, goodness, we see Christ. Do we think him so small that he couldn’t invade a series of books about a boy wizard? Do we think him cut off from a story like this, as if he were afraid, or weak, or worried? … The Harry Potter story is subject to him, too, and Jesus can use it however he wants. In my case, Jesus used it to help me long for heaven, to remind me of the invisible world, to keep my imagination active and young, and he used it to show me his holy bravery in his triumph over the grave.” (Andrew Peterson, Harry Potter, Jesus, and Me)

So, yeah, I did love this series.  I’ll probably read the books again soon, and I know I’ll watch the movies again soon.  (I’ve seen some of them multiple times because I love them so much – especially Prisoner of Azkaban, which was my favorite book before I fell in love with Deathly Hallows.)

I’ll be the first to admit that the series has its faults.  The Voldemort scenes repulsed me because he’s so evil (which all great villains are supposed to be).  A few of the characters got on my nerves (looking at you, Ron).  And a lot of the characters died, which is definitely a fault (*weeps silently*).

But it was also amazing.  And I’ve already gone into too much detail about why I thought it was so amazing, but I’ll say it again – IT WAS AMAZING.  That was half of the reason why I cried when it was over.  Because it was over, yes, but also because it was so phenomenal.  The story of how Jo wrote it still blows my mind and inspires me to write engaging and complex literature, too.

The thing I loved the most about it, though, was the fact that it inspired me to fight for good.  In his book, Finding God in Harry Potter, John Granger says that the series “fulfills our God-implanted longing to resist evil and serve the good.”

I can’t agree more.

harrypotter14.jpg

love is a risk {a follow-up post}

Surprise!  I’m back for another love post!  (Actually, a kind of follow-up post to my ‘actively waiting’ post, now that I think about it.)

I wasn’t going to do any more posts about love, but I started reading this blog post about it, and I was just like, “I have got to reblog this.

But first, my unsolicited opinion!  (Because it’s my blog and I do what I want.)

I’ve been talking to so many people about love lately – my sister, my best friend, some other friends – and it’s just been really interesting to hear so many different opinions from my friends in different stages of life.  One girl is in a complicated friend relationship that may turn into something more (which she’s slightly afraid of), one is swearing off guys for the moment, one is reaching that age when she feels like she’ll never be married, one is swearing not to date a guy unless he’s marriage material, and one is afraid of guys.  (You know who you are!  Hugs and kisses. *wink*)

Confession time: I’ve been in all of those places.  (And right now, honestly, I’m constantly swinging between trying to be satisfied in Christ {and I’ve been trying to learn how to be satisfied over the past like five years} and wanting to just scream “DATE ME!” at a guy I like.)

My views of marriage and guy/girl relationships have changed so radically over the past five years that I wish I could go back in time and give my sixteen-year-old self a firm shake, a hug, and a promise that it’ll all be a little more clear in the future.

Relationships aren’t complicated, guys.  That’s my revelation from the past few years.  Guy/girl relationships can be a little complicated at times… but only if you make them so.  If you’re constantly worrying if you’ll ever get married or if a certain dude is THE ONE, congratulations, you’ve set yourself up for a few weeks/months/years of worry.

(Tangent: And hey, guess what?  The only way to know if a guy likes you is to ask.  Plain and simple.  I thought asking the dude was stupid… when I was twelve.  And it is stupid… when you’re twelve.  At eighteen, nineteen, twenty, twenty-five… DO IT.  There’s no use pining over some guy you have no chance with.  Ask his sister, ask his mom, ask him… but don’t think about him sporadically {or constantly} and worry if he likes you or not.  Ask and move on – either with him or away from him.  And if you’ve done that, WELL DONE – you’ve saved yourself loads of time!  Trust me; it’ll be far better in the long run when you’ve moved on instead thinking you’ve moved on and being reminded of your feelings towards him when you’re invited to his future bride’s bridal shower.  Not that I’m speaking from experience or anything… *cough*)

As Phylicia says in her post, Dear Girl, It’s Just a Date, we as Christians have made guy/girl relationships too complicated by insisting that they be destined for marriage.  When I was younger, I swore I’d never date – and I’d only court someone (whatever that means) when I was absolutely, positively, one hundred percent SURE that I’d marry him.

Golly Pete, was I naive or what?!

Over the last year or so, I’ve realized that it isn’t that simple.  Courtship does not equal marriage.  Dating does not equal divorce.  Yes, if your definitions of the two are wrong (especially excessive, serial dating, or even excessive, serial courting), you’re setting yourself up for failure.  I’m not saying that dating is wrong and courtship is right (or the opposite), but we need to reevaluate our views on the two.  Is a failed courtship a failed relationship?  Nope, not if God taught you something through it.  Is going out on a date with a guy sinful?  Nope, not if boundaries are set and God is the focus.

I’ve seen both dating relationships and courtship relationships end in disaster.  Dating where neither is fully committed and boundaries get crossed and, hello, babies get made.  Courting where the couple is never left alone to figure out if they’re comfortable with just the two of them and then marrying and finding out that – heck, no – they’re not comfortable at all.  Both are wrong and both have lifetime consequences.

The way I see it, a guy/girl relationship (be it courtship or dating) is only a failure if, when it ends, it scars you for life and radically negatively alters your perspective.  If you’ve been in a courtship and it failed, that is okay.  We need to stop pressuring people into thinking that you can only “get to know someone on a deeper level” if you want to marry them.  Can you imagine how much pressure that must make the guy feel if he does ANYTHING wrong?!  Not to mention how much pressure is put on the girl!  “Getting to know someone on a deeper level” only means that – getting to know them.  How can you know if a person is compatible for life if you don’t get to know them first?

Don’t make relationships more complicated than they already are.  I’ve seen relationships falter and die a tragic death because of too much talking, too much bad counsel, too much worrying, and way too much analyzing.  Yes, relationships are a risk (especially guy/girl relationships), but that’s faith – trusting in God and moving forward even when you can’t see (II Corinthians 5:7).

Okay, enough rambling – to my original intent for this post!

As the following isn’t my post, I’m just going to put some of it here and encourage you guys to go read the rest.  ‘Cause it’s amazing.

just a date

Dear girl,

We the Church – we’ve made relationships heavy.

Relationships are a serious thing – serious because they involve real hearts and raw emotions. We have to walk wisely and think clearly. But not all relationships are meant for marriage.

Maybe you already grasp that concept in your head. But I want you to grasp it in your heart – and on your next date.

Don’t try out his last name.

Don’t picture the Facebook status.

Don’t go there.

It’s just a date.

I’m not saying to lose the romance and I’m not saying to abandon all common sense. I’m not suggesting you settle for less or that you approach relationships carelessly. I’m saying that your truest self – the self you want a man to know and see and love – isn’t revealed when you’re knee-deep in the Christian-relationship mating ritual. There, we must bear the weight of a potential future, and bear in mind that marriage – marriage could be on the line.

All on the first date.

But despite the best efforts, we can never guarantee a first date will lead to marriage. No one can.

These days we move strategically, chess pieces navigating the game. We have to know if he’s ready to spiritually lead and financially take on a family. We have to know where it’s headed because otherwise, it’s a waste of time – right? Dating is supposed to lead to marriage – right?

Not always.

We the Church – we’ve made relationships complicated.

We meant well, really. We seek to protect purity and uphold marriage. We want to embrace God’s design. But we keep missing a consistent gospel theme: freedom. Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty (2 Cor. 3:17). In relationships, that means if you’re walking by the Spirit of God you are free to go on a date without demanding a DTR. [Ashley’s note: Define The Relationship]

We want it all in order from the beginning. We want the promise of no broken hearts, no disappointment, no struggle through the just-friends-but-not stage. We want to guard our hearts from hurt by only dating people we could see ourselves marrying, but the pressure is too soon, too heavy. A Starbucks hour won’t tell you if this guy is marriage material. It takes time.

Girls wonder why the guys run scared. I would run scared. I don’t believe Christian men are afraid of commitment. I believe they are afraid of commitment expected on the first date. In a church culture where a date equals intention of marriage, the pressure is on. You can’t just ask a girl out and get to know her; you have to know your intentions first. But how can you know your intentions if you don’t even know the girl herself?

Read the rest of the post here, then leave a comment and let me know what you think!  Do you agree or disagree with what I and Phylicia said?