My Favorite Romance Books (It’s Not What You Might Think)

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There’s something that really bugs me about the romances in most books these days: it’s all about how the two people meet and fall in love and how their relationship progresses up until they get married. Then all the excitement and drama ends. Boom. The book of their romance closes with a thud and dust begins to accumulate on top.

It’s not just books or movies or fiction, either. It seems to be the prevailing attitude that once you get married, all the fun ends. The romance fades away, and boring monotony sets in. In some ways, that’s kind of true. I mean, now most of your time together is spent doing normal life stuff like chores instead of primarily fun things like dates. Most of life is pretty mundane and unexciting. I get that. But just because you’re married doesn’t mean you can’t go on fun dates or that there can’t be moments of romance. More than that, I think that doing normal life stuff together can have its own kind of romance and beauty, the kind that you don’t get to have when you’re just dating.

Okay, so maybe you’re thinking, you’re not married. What do you know about this? Well, for one thing, I have wonderful parents who have shown and told me what a healthy, happy marriage can be. For another, not all the books I read have romances that end at marriage. There really are some books out there that show married couples still in love and portray marriage as an ongoing adventure. Today is the perfect day to celebrate them, wouldn’t you agree?

The Queen’s Thief series by Megan Whalen Turner

I already raved about this series in my 2017 reading recap post. I feel like the tagline of this blog should be trying to get everyone hooked on The Queen’s Thief series. There are worse goals, I assure you. Anyway, because of spoilers I can’t be really specific, but in one or more of these books there is a couple that is probably my favorite ship after Faramir and Eowyn. Which is saying a lot. Their relationship is complex and certainly messy at times, but also so beautiful. Ugh, I just love it so much. If you want to give me a Valentine’s present, go read this series so we can freak out together.

Annals of the Western Shore by Ursula K. Le Guin

Orrec and Gry, guys. I love how well they complement each other, how their different strengths and personalities are equally important to their mission, and how they recognize that. I love how they know what the other person thinks and needs and how they support and admire each other. I love seeing them work together. Definitely one of my favorite fictional couples of all time. ❤

Vinegar Girl by Anne Tyler

This book is a modern-day spin on Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew. Most of it is about the two main characters meeting and getting to know each other, but you do get a glimpse of them as a married couple (Hey, it’s not a spoiler, you know how the play ends. Or you should. *snooty judgmental stare*). More than that, it just has great views on marriage. There’s this part at the end where one of the characters basically gives a big impromptu speech about marriage, and it makes me want to cheer.

Presumption by Julia Barrett

While I dearly love Jane Austen and her books are quite appropriate for this time of year, they do tend to end with “and they got married and lived happily ever after.” Which is totally fine, but not quite in keeping with the theme of this post. In this sequel, however, Barrett gives us a picture of the Darcys after their marriage. The main plot focuses on Georgianna, Darcy’s younger sister, and her romantic adventures, but we do get to see Elizabeth and Darcy interacting as a married couple. Let me just say, it’s a treat.

The Mitford series by Jan Karon

I’m not sure if I’ve ever mention this series on here before?? If I haven’t, woe is me for this travesty. There are numerous reasons to love the Mitford series, and the relationship between Father Tim and Cynthia hold a high spot on the list. For the majority of this series, they are married, and I love watching their relationship unfold. Jan Karon is masterful at writing real, raw characters and treating them with honesty and compassion. Some of the stuff in her books is hard to read about, but there is always redemption and hope. Father Tim’s and Cynthia’s marriage embodies this. There are ups and downs, but ultimately it is a story of two broken people finding and creating a safe place with each other. Seeing how they make each other better and come through tough times closer has given me a positive and hopeful vision of what my future marriage can be.

Anne of Green Gables series by L. M. Montgomery

You can’t make any kind of list revolving around favorite fictional couples and exclude Anne Shirley and Gilbert Blythe. Another big ship of mine. Again, while I love reading about how they meet and eventually fall in love, I also deeply appreciate that L.M. Montgomery wrote about their married life together too. I especially enjoy the arc of their relationship in book six, Anne of Ingleside. I won’t say anymore because of spoilers, but it’s a wonderful portrayal of a long-lasting marriage. Make sure you don’t stop at book one of this series because there’s a whole lot of good stuff afterwards. (Shoutout to Rilla of Ingleside, book eight, as my favorite book of the series.)

Green Dolphin Street by Elizabeth Goudge

This is one of my favorite standalone books of all time, and one of the reasons is the couple that the plot revolves around. This marriage is unlike any of the others in this list. I can’t really say more because of spoilers, but Goudge showed me that marriage is way more messy and more beautiful than I had thought. This book basically changed the entire way I thought about marriage. Just aghhhh, GO READ IT. The writing is really beautiful too.

The Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Orczy

I almost didn’t include this one, because even though the couple in it is married, it kind of feels like they’re meeting each other for the first time. Again, I don’t want to say more because of spoilers. Just know this book is a whole lot of fun and a big part of the entertainment is the journey of Marguerite and Percy Blakeney’s relationship. Also, the movie version of this is hilarious and one of my favorite watches of 2017.

Wrinkle in Time Quintet by Madeleine L’Engle

If you’ve only read A Wrinkle in Time, please go read the other books in the series: A Wind in the Door, A Swiftly Tilting Planet, Many Waters, and An Acceptable Time. Man, they are so good. If you haven’t read them, you might want to skip this part because of slight spoilers. *waits for you to scroll down*

Okay, so the marriage I’m talking about for this series is between Meg Murry and Calvin O’Keefe. You don’t actually see a ton of interaction between them when they’re married, but from the little you do see and from their interactions as kids in Wrinkle, I know it’s a great marriage. Maybe my favorite thing about it is that they got married at all and that Meg chose to stay at home and support Calvin’s scientific work. I am totally all for girls going to college and grad school and having careers and all that. But I hate how if you choose not to do that you’re seen as suppressed or limited or boring or whatever. Our culture says women should get to choose to do whatever they want, but what they really mean is that they should choose to have their own job. Choosing to stay at home is it apparently the exception to the rule. I love what Madeline L’Engle says about it:

Several women have written to me to complain about A Swiftly Tilting Planet. They feel that I should not have allowed Meg Murry to give up a career by marrying Calvin, having children, quietly helping her husband with his work behind the scenes. But if women are to be free to choose to pursue a career as well as marriage, they must also be free to choose the making of a home and the nurture of a family as their vocation; that was Meg’s choice, and a free one, and it was as creative a choice as if she had gone on to get a PhD in quantum mechanics.

Mistborn by Brandon Sanderson

This is another couple that complements each other so well. Vin and Elend are so different in many ways—she’s intense and he’s more relaxed, she is the nobody with powers and he’s the normal ol’ aristocrat, she knows the ways of the world and how to survive and he is a naïve idealist. Each has something the other needs; Elend provides safety and security and unconditional love, and Vin helps push him to be more, to take action, to fight. They are so much more when they are together. I love what Sazed tells them when they get married:

Those who don’t take lightly promises they make to those they love are people who find little lasting satisfaction in life.

And that’s the real beauty of marriage—loving someone enough to make such a promise, to take the risk and make the leap and work through the messiness and fight for love even when it’s hard. We need more books like these ones to celebrate marriages like that, to show us that such marriages can exist.

What are your thoughts on fictional romances? What are some of your favorite couples and marriages in books? Oh, and Happy Valentine’s Day! *hands out heart-shaped cookies*

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Reading Recap 2017

I got reading glasses this year. They make me feel delightfully nerdy and like I’m a genuine bookworm.

 

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I also got goodreads! I thiiiiink I’ve mentioned that before, but in a post all about books it’s worth mentioning again, right? I’m Aberdeen on there, and I’d love to see what you’re up to in the bookish realm.

Normally, I do a big end-of-the-year wrap-up post where I recount what I accomplished in terms of writing, blogging, and reading. However, the only thing I did much of on that list this year was reading. Which of course calls for a big long post about BOOKSES PRECIOUS. Who’s complaining? (That was a rhetorical question. *shoos away all complainers*) I’m going to share my thoughts on my favorite two books in each of these categories: fiction, nonfiction, and fantasy. I’ll also list some honorable mentions because we all know I can’t pick favorites. And of course there will be quotes.

Also, this post is really long because once I start blabbing about books it’s hard to stop. *sheepish grin* Feel free to just jump to the genre that interests you or skim through to see the titles or something. And do tell me what you’ve read this year or what you think of the books I highlighted in the comments.

{fiction}

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Okay For Now by Gary D. Schmidt

I don’t know what to say to do this book justice. It’s one of those rare but beautiful books that makes me both laugh out loud and cry real tears. It’s that kind of book I want to write someday. I think I can say that it’s my favorite book of the year. I know, I know, I just did the unthinkable and picked a favorite. It feels kind of scary to do so, but this book is that good. It wasn’t perfect; there were a few plot things that felt off to me but the rest of it was so storming good that they didn’t affect my overall opinion.

This is the story of Doug Swieteck. Another book by Schmidt, The Wednesday Wars, which is also an all-time favorite of mine, introduces him as a jerky bully. In this book, we find out why Doug is such a jerk. But we also find out that he’s more than a jerk. But you can read about the plot in a blurb online. Here’s what this book is really about:

It is about the power of art—how good art can relate to and change your life and how making art yourself can heal you. It is about how are are people are broken but how that isn’t all of their story. It is about family and friendship. It’s about the race to the moon and the Vietnam War and John Audubon’s paintings of birds. It’s about how flat-out astonishing the gift of being able to read is. It’s a book about hope in a deeply messed up world.

I love Doug’s voice. It’s so realistic and yet unique—somehow Schmidt is able to show him maturing without making him way too wise or thoughtful for his age or personality. I’ll never hear the word “terrific” without thinking about Doug. I love how there are so many great adults in his life (which is nice, because there are also a few horrible ones). And can I just say that I love that Doug loves the Yankees. PINSTRIPE PRIDE, PEEPS. Also, alliteration.

Basically, if you read only one of the books on this list, this would be a good choice.

Mrs. Daugherty was keeping my bowl of cream of wheat hot, and she had a special treat with it, she said. It was bananas.

In the whole story of the world, bananas have never once been a special treat.


Mr. Ferris didn’t say anything the whole time. He sat next to me and listened. And when I finished, I looked at him.

He was crying. I’m not lying. He was crying.

I don’t think it was because how hard I hit him.

I know how the Black-Backed Gull feels when he looks up into the sky.

Maybe, somehow, Mr. Ferris does too.


My brother looked at me. I looked at him.

Sometimes- and I know it doesn’t last for anything more than a second- sometimes there can be perfect understanding between two people who can’t stand each other. He smiled, and I smiled, and we put on the Timex watches on, and we watched the seconds flit by.

It was the first watch my brother had ever owned.

It was the first watch I had ever owned.

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The Way We Live Now by Anthony Trollope

I had a really tough time choosing between this one and Howards End by E.M. Forster. If I could assign books to certain personality types, Howards End would be for INFJs. Not that you can’t enjoy it if you have a different personality obviously, but the themes this book explored resonated with me so deeply. It was like it was talking directly to me.  Anyway, lest I be accused of cheating by talking about two books in one section, let’s move on.

The Way We Live Now is a huge hunk of a book but I sped through it. I seriously couldn’t put it down, guys. His writing reminded me of Charles Dickens and George Eliot. Basically, if you’re a fan of any 19th-century British literature, you’ll love this. I’m not going to try to lay out the multitude of characters in this book and ho yeah yes oh Yeah no boldw they are related, but there is one person you should meet: August Melmotte. Fabulously rich, he arrives in London from France with a murky background that everyone is willing to overlook in hopes of earning some monetary favors. All the various romances and escapades swirl around him, and the varied threads of every character’s life all become wrapped around the question: How did Melmotte get his money? And how will the answer affect them?

There’s something for everyone in this complex and fast-paced novel (yes, classics can be fast-paced). There are politics, relationships, ethics, intrigue, and a fascinating portrayal of the English upper-class in the 1800s. I personally found his descriptions of Americans hilarious and also rather interesting. For most of the book I was facepalming over the characters’ ridiculous choices but I promise, the ending is worth it. Not because everything ends happily but because it makes you think. Each story line has a different lesson to ponder, a different character that surprises you. If you read this book thoughtfully enough, you may begin to see that the way we live now is not so different from how Trollope’s characters live.

As long as there are men to fight for women, it may be well to leave the fighting to the men. But when a woman has no one to help her, is she to bear everything without turning upon those who ill-use her? Shall a women be flayed alive because it is unfeminine in her to fight for her own skin?


A liar has many points to his favor—but he has this against him, that unless he devote more time to the management of his lies than life will generally allow, he cannot make them tally.


Love is like any other luxury. You have no right to it unless you can afford it.

Honorable mentions:

Howards End by E.M. Forster

Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton

Wonder by R.J. Palacio

{non-fiction}

Some of the most impactful nonfiction books I read this year were rereads, so I’m not including them on the list. Never fear, for I also read a lot of great new stuff. Here they are.

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The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown

Okay. This book. I’m in love. It’s the kind of book that takes over my world and gets me super excited. It’s the kind of book I can’t stop talking about, as I am sure my family can tell you. Basically it’s the story of an college crew team trying to not only become the team to represent America at the 1936 Olympics in Berlin but to beat the elite German team. Sure, it seems pretty obvious what the result will be since there’s a whole book on it, but Brown’s genius is that you are on the edge of your seat the entire time. It’s incredibly suspenseful. And he’s not making up any of it. The obstacles these boys had to face are staggering. Many times I wanted to go look up this story in a history book because I thought there was no way that this could actually be true.

Brown does something really smart and powerful by following one of the boys, Joe Rantz, for the whole book. Joe’s story is hard and tragic in many places, but the struggles he endured just emphasize the extraordinary character and strength of the boys, as well as the importance of the team and the Olympics to them. The book is compelling because we care about Joe, because we have seen what he has gone through and what crew means to him.

Obviously, the Olympics race is more than just one team against another. It’s two sets of philosophies and ideas pitted against each other. It’s America versus Nazi Germany, and we all know what that means. For Hitler, it’s a chilling foreshadowing of what is to come—although of course he doesn’t see it that way. Brown does a great job describing the political and cultural ramifications of this race without overdramatizing it. He also describes the sport itself clearly so that I could appreciate the events of each race without getting lost in obscure terms.

This is a book about hardship and how it can make you or break you. It is a book about the beauty of struggles, about the heroism of the average, unpolished kid. It is a book about brotherhood and community and how we are stronger together. It’s about freedom versus tyranny and how in the end, the good guys always win.

I listened to the audiobook of this (I need to do a post on audiobooks sometime), so I don’t really have any quotes recorded. My deepest apologies. *formal bow*

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Roots and Sky by Christie Purifoy

I think I finished this book on New Year’s Day 2017. Yeah. If I had been a few hours quicker, it wouldn’t be on this list at all. But I’m glad it is, because it deserves a chance in the spotlight. In a lot of ways I can’t relate to Christie. I’m not a mom with young kids, and I’m not refurbishing an old house that will become my permanent home. I’m a teenager who’s moved her whole life. But I can relate to Christie’s heart. Her longing for a belonging place, her desire to find meaning and beauty in the little things, her awareness that she’s living in a story.

Christie takes us through the four seasons of her first year at Maplehurst, an old house in Pennsylvania they want to make into their home. While she does share details about her gardening and renovations and efforts to connect with the neighbors, this isn’t a book about fixing up a house. It’s a book about, well, her thoughts on life. I feel like I’m describing this terribly. It’s not a book that is easy to describe. It’s written in beautiful prose, simple and thoughtful and poetic. Her words remind me of a window at dawn; a clear pane of glass with golden light shining through.

I love how Christie rejoices in the material things about her, like a good meal or fresh soil, while also living with an eternal perspective, interpreting everything through the lens of the hope she has in Jesus. She isn’t preachy; she is real. Her book is soothing and yet deeply moving and inspiring. It came to me when I needed a vision of what my life could be, a promise that I could find meaning in the littlest moments. Thank you, Christie.

For this is no ordinary house. This is no pile of bricks and mortar. This is an outpost of the kingdom of heaven, and a star has risen overhead.


I know myself fairly well. I know that I do not like crowds. I do not feel comfortable strangers. I struggle, mightily, with small talk…. To put it simply, I am afraid. I am lonely, yet I want only to be left alone.

But the kingdom of God is pretty much the opposite of alone. Also, in the kingdom of God, there is this voice saying, “Do not be afraid, do not be afraid, do not be afraid.”


Some might say Maplehurst falls short of the ideal beauty I glimpsed in my dreams. But this allegiance to “ideal” beauty is a form of blindness. It is a refusal to lift the veil of everyday life in order to see the glory of God.

Honorable mentions:

Daring to Hope by Katie Davis Majors

The Reason for God by Timothy Keller

Behold the Lamb of God by Russ Ramsey

{fantasy}

In some ways, this was a slim year for fantasy because I didn’t read much of it. But it was actually a great year for fantasy because the stuff I did read was absolutely AMAZING. Like two-new-favorite-series-of-all-time amazing.

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Harry Potter by JK Rowling

I honestly can’t believe I read this. More than that, I can’t believe that it’s now on my top-five fantasy series list. I wrote about my Harry Potter journey in this post, but long story short, I wasn’t allowed to read this—or even super interested in reading it—until this year when I realized a) it’s not an evil series and b) it’s actually one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever read.

At the risk of sounding really cliche or obvious, reading these books was magical. I can’t really describe what I felt while reading them; it’s an indistinct rush of thoughts and feelings. It’s the same way I felt when I discovered Lord of the Rings for the first time. Readers live for that kind of experience, the enthralling and all-consuming plunge into another world. When I finished the last book, I ached. I ached for more of the characters, for more of the world, for more of this beautiful story.

Let me just say that Rowling’s world building flabbergasts me with its brilliance. I’ve always considered Brandon Sanderson to be the best world builder, and I still think he’s one of the best. But what Rowling does that is unique and powerful is that her world, although entirely magical and filled with immensely creative details, feels familiar. It feels cozy and real, and most of all, it feels like home. I never expected that from these books about sorcerers and dark lords. And it’s not just that it is set in our world. There are plenty of fantasies set in our world that still feel bizarre and alien. This one is different. You might get your mail by an owl or learn how to cast a patronus in school, but there is still mail and there is still school. Sure, there are magical rules to abide by, but the deeper rules, the rules about life and love and people, those are the same.

Two further notes for the Christians out there who haven’t yet read this series:

  • If you’ve never tried Harry Potter because of theological concerns, I would recommend this post by Andrew Peterson. And I would say, at least give it a try. Give it a honest try. In my experience, everyone who condemns it hasn’t read much of it, and those who were skeptical but tried it are never skeptical for long. This isn’t to encourage disobeying your parents if they don’t want you to read it or refusing to listen to your conscience or anything. But before you completely disregard something, make sure you know what it is actually about.
  • I do admit that there are still some issues in these books that require discernment. No book is perfect; no one will ever agree perfectly with a single book. Personally, I’m going to wait to handle my kids  this series until they’re in middle school just to make sure they have the maturity to distinguish between the sorcery condemned in the Bible and the “sorcery” in Harry Potter (I put it in quotes because it’s really nothing like the sorcery in Scripture).

*agonizes over this for 20 minutes because there are TOO MANY GOOD QUOTES OH MY STORMS*

It was important, Dumbledore said, to fight, and fight again, and keep fighting, for only then could evil be kept at bay…


Of house elves and children’s tales, of love, loyalty, and innocence, Voldemort knows and understands nothing. Nothing. That they all have a power beyond his own, a power beyond the reach of any magic, is a truth he has never grasped.


“But why’s she got to go to the library?”

“Because that’s what Hermione does,” said Ron, shrugging. “When in doubt, go to the library.”

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The Queen’s Thief series by Megan Whalen Turner

Um, wow. This series is one of the best things that happened to me this year. I had heard about it a couple of years ago and tried one of the books (which, I have since found out, was actually the fourth book) but just couldn’t get into it. As has happened to me many times with other books, I decided to try the series again and this time, I couldn’t stop reading (might have helped that I started with the first book).

It blew my mind, guys. From what I’ve heard, it has that effect on a lot of people. Seriously though, if you love surprise twists, complicated plots, and mental gymnastics, this is for you. At the end of every single book, Turner fiendishly takes everything you think you know and turns it upside down. And yet, suddenly everything make sense. You know that Sanderson quote, “there is always another secret”? That could sum up these books.

But for me, the real treasure in this series is not the stunning plots, fascinating political machinations, or even the great writing. It’s the characters. I love these characters so. much. Eugenides, also known as Gen, the cleverer-than-Sherlock-Holmes yet surprisingly vulnerable main character, silently but irrevocably stole the place of my favorite male character. I can’t really say more because of spoilers but yeah, all the other characters have captured my heart too (with a few exceptions).

If you don’t like traditional fantasy or anything that feels unrealistic or creepy, you have to try these books. They shouldn’t be labeled fantasy at all. It’s misleading. The world is very similar to ancient Greece but with a few twists—primarily in its technological advancements. There is no magic or elves or strange powers you were born with that destine you to save the world. The only supernatural element is that of the pantheon of gods that rule over the world, but they appear rarely. When they do, they are strongly reminiscent of our world’s Greek and Roman mythology.

Okay, now to find some quotes that aren’t super SPOILERY GOOD GRIEF. But the spoilery ones are so beautiful, it’s killing me. Just please go read this series guys.

“He would have been a better man under different circumstances.”

Gen looked at him. “True enough,” he said. “But does a good man let his circumstances define his character?”


“From shadow queen to puppet queen in one rule,” he whispered. “That’s very impressive. When he rules your country and he tells you he loves you, I hope you believe him.”


She thought of the hardness and the coldness she had cultivated over those years and wondered if they were the mask she wore or if the mask had become her self. If the longing inside her for kindness, for warmth, for compassion, was the last seed of hope for her, she didn’t know how to nurture it or if it could live.

Honorable mentions:

Echo by Pam Muñoz Ryan (there is a magical component woven throughout this whole story but for the majority of the time it feels more like normal historical fiction so I’m not sure if it really belongs in this section?? I think it’s technically magical realism, for whatever that’s worth. Anyway, regardless of the genre, go read this masterpiece.)

Annals of the Western Shore by Ursula K. Le Guin

What were your favorite books of the year? Which of mine have you read? I’ve missed chatting with you guys—let’s remedy that with lots of book talk!

Going on an Adventure: Scotland

I AM ALIVE. *brushes the cobwebs off this blog* Hello, my wonderful and incredibly patient readers! I know I haven’t posted in a shamefully long time (minus last week’s poem), so I’m going to try to make it up today with lots of lovely pictures. The short version of the big life update I owe you is, I’ve decided to defer from college for a year to give me time to figure out what’s going on with my arms. They’re still bothering me (which I guess you’ve deduced from my silence). In that vein, I’d like to give a shoutout to those who have recently found my blog and to everyone who has posted such lovely, encouraging comments. Right now, I just can’t reply to comments because if I do so, I won’t be able to do other important things like emailing friends or journaling (Page’s dictation feature is a wonderful thing). I hate having to prioritize like this, but I do want you all to know that I read every comment, I try to like them to let you know that I read them, and every one always brightens my day (who are we kidding, my week). I can’t thank you all enough for continuing to be and here read my stuff and communicate with me, even when I can’t always get back to you. You guys really are the best. Okay, on to the fun stuff. (Seriously, guys, I have so been looking forward to this post. *capers about*)


This summer, my family and I got to go to Scotland. Let me just say that again: I got to go to Scotland. Saying that feels so unreal. I’ve dreamed about visiting Scotland for years, and I still can’t believe it finally happened. We went to Glasgow, where my grandfather grew up; Loch Lomond, a big and beautiful lake in the highlands; Aberdeen, the city I’m named after (!!!!); and Edinburgh, the capital of Scotland. When I look back on our trip, it feels like a dream.

You’ve probably heard two things about Scotland: 1) it’s beautiful; 2) it’s rainy. You’d be right about both. Thankfully, we got a few sunny days during the Loch Lomond leg of our trip, so all our hikes were lovely. No, scratch that. All our hikes were stunningly gorgeous. Words just can’t describe how beautiful Scotland is. I don’t think I’ve ever been to a place as beautiful. And that’s saying a lot, since I’ve been to the Alps. I mean, obviously the Alps are jaw-droppingly spectacular, but the highlands of Scotland just have this unique beauty that gave me chills and made me want to stay there forever. It’s not just natural beauty either––from the warm sandstone in Glasgow to the austere and elegant granite of Aberdeen, even the city buildings were attractive. Everyone we met was lovely too—and they spoke English! I didn’t have to stare at people with a blank face and feel like an idiot while they babble at me in German. When waitresses asked, “Hi, can I take your order?” I could have hugged them. Also, THE FOOD. I was expecting yucky British food, but everything we ate was really good. Maybe the gross British food stereotype only applies to London or maybe we just got lucky, but my mouth waters whenever I think of the scones, meat pies, toffee cakes, and shortbread we consumed. Basically, you guys have got to go to Scotland. Everyone of you. No excuses. If you’re still not convinced, just look at these pictures:

(Click on one of them to scroll through; they look better bigger, and I wrote captions for almost all of them. There are a lot, but I’m kind of assuming nobody will mind. ;D)

 

In the year of our Lord 1314,

Scottish patriots, starved and outnumbered,

charged the fields at Bannockburn.

They fought like warrior poets. They fought like Scotsmen.

And won their freedom.

Forever.

~ Braveheart

I’m so proud to be from this beautiful country. ❤

So, friends, have you ever been to Scotland? Do you want to now? Which picture was your favorite? And how are you??

 

 

I Will Go (Remembering 9/11)

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Even if, when this is all over, no one knows my name

Even if no one points to my picture in the paper and says, “here was a hero”

Even if the parades pass me by and the ash stains on my shirt are my only medal

Even so

`

Even though, before I take one step, I am afraid

Even though the flames are the ghosts of my past failures reaching out to finally and forever drag me down

Even though the sweat on my skin is more real to me in this moment than the screams from the tower

Even so

`

Even if, for all our desperate tries, you die

Even if all the effort is a waste and we stand at the scene of a massacre, helpless

Even if every night after the stars are replaced by the screaming souls I could not save

Even so

`

I will go

I will try

I may live

I may die

But I will go

`

I will pick up my helmet––my first aid kit––my keys––whatever thin threads of my courage I can weave together into some kind shield to hang between me and the fire and the fear

To weave into a blanket, like when I was little and thought if I huddled behind one the bad guy could never get me

To weave into a banner, just a piece of cloth and yet it makes the men marching under it so much stronger

Is my courage strong enough? Will the thin threads hold?

Does it even matter?

`

Even so

I will go

`

Because there’s a fire inside me that is stronger than the one I face

Because hate can be fierce and hot and it can burn but there is a fury in love that can raze every forest of cruelty to the ground

Because in the end we’re all afraid every second of every day and that is no excuse

And so

`

Because what if every moment I have lived has led up to this one?

Because what if every choice I have made has prepared me for this one?

Because what if this is the point of me? What if I’m here on this planet to be here for you on this day?

And so

`

Because I have no idea who you are or how many of you there are but I know that you are a human being and that you matter

Because not trying is worse than failing

Because I’d rather be haunted by faces I couldn’t save than by ones I didn’t try to

And so

`

I will go

`

Remember when you feel the rain on your face and look up into a bright blue sky and bite into a freshly baked cookie and hug that person who makes you laugh and turn on music in your car and feel sorrow shoot its silver arrow into your soul—remember that you’re alive and that that’s very good thing and it’s worth protecting. Remember that if you stop trying to help other people stay alive too, then you are already dead. Remember how there were two of them, twins, and how we’ve got to stand together. Remember to act, so that each tomorrow find you further than today. So that you can die with no regrets. Remember. Then go. Fight the next fire, and the next, and the next, and don’t be afraid. The day is coming when they will all die out. Just make sure you were one of the ones who fought when you had the chance. 


A post with pictures of a really cool place I visited this summer plus a mini life update is coming soon. =)

for all I have lost (he never tells me why)

f61fd7732222a29acc0d9a0e5249c422--sad-anime-anime-art

for all i have lost

for all i am not

for all that was not as i had hoped

for every crumpled dream

for every tear on every mask-cracked face

for every piece of the world that breaks

just a little bit more…

for

all

the

pain

`

i weep

`

i nestle knees to chest

and wonder

WHY???

which he never answers

`

instead he always tells me

who

truth, way, life

hope, strength, refuge

creator, redeemer, sustainer

right hand, banner, shepherd

bread and water, vine and door

one who hears, who sees, who knows, who—

why?

who?

I AM

in which I tell you how my year has gone & stuff I’ve learned

When you take AP classes, the test looms over your whole year, an ominous mountain in the distance you never lose sight of, despite the many hills of lab reports, essays, and projects. By April, it is huge, the only thing you see.

Like any other student, I was crazy stressed for all my AP exams (I had Biology, Calculus, and Latin.). But unlike most others, I desperately wanted to take them. Much as they fray my nerves, I love big tests like these because I relish the challenge. I wanted the satisfaction of surviving and doing well in something hard. A good score would be a validation of everything I put into the subject and the class. It had to do with my pride but also just my desire for all my hard work to pay off.

And it had been hard work. AP Calculus is challenging enough, but when picking up a pencil, much less writing with it, causes pain to shoot up your arm and embed itself deep in your hand, well, AP calculus is really really hard then. Eventually I had to remind my perfectionistic self that this time I had a valid excuse for not doing things as thoroughly as I thought I should.

essay-writing

In late October, when I began to accept that whatever was going on wouldn’t resolve itself soon, my mind flew over the upcoming months and settled on the second week of May. I imagined myself sitting at a desk in an unfamiliar school, bent over one of my AP tests. I remember thinking, There is no way that is going to happen. No way.

In January, I thought I wouldn’t be able to graduate. I’d lie in bed at night and watch my future and my dreams crumble around me. Before, I had wondered how far in education I’d like to go—a Masters or even, who knew, a PhD? Now I was concerned about simply finishing high school. I started judging how well a day would go by how much it hurt to brush my teeth after breakfast. Sometimes I would sit at my desk waiting for math class to start and cry, wondering how I would get through it.

In February, I had written out emails in my head to my teachers, explaining why I wasn’t able to take the exams. Even the week of all the exams itself, I still had an email planned to my Latin teacher, since Latin was the last test and also the one that required the most writing. I am not usually one to give up hope, but this year I was absolutely sure there was no way I would be able to complete the Latin exam—and probably not the others either.

In March, things began to look up. I was in less pain, I was doing things I hadn’t for a while. The terrible fear that I wouldn’t graduate stopped haunting me at night. For the first time in many months, I started to feel hopeful.

Then April hit, and for no explicable reason, things got bad again. It was worse this time, probably because I had experienced, very slightly and very fleetingly, what it was like to hurt less. Descending back into the pain after that was horrible. The shadow of the AP mountain smothered me in stress. Discomfort prevented me from sleeping well.

Camping

Enter the first week of May. I had arrived at base camp, and I was determined to everything in my power to prepare myself for the climb. That Friday, three days before my first AP, I decided to do something I had never done before: I skipped an assignment (gasp). I did it to preserve my arms, and I clamped down on my internal shrieks long enough to enter a score of zero. (In case you’re concerned, I emailed my teacher to explain the zero, and she was super nice and understanding about it.)

The next part of my get-through-APs plan was physical therapy. We had scheduled an appointment for that Friday morning. I’d been doing PT for several months now, and while it didn’t improve things permanently, it did prevent them from getting worse. But when we got to the office, it appeared there had been some miscommunication. Somehow, we didn’t have an appointment after all. Great.

I felt discouraged, but I resolved that I would simply stay away from any writing or typing for the next few days. When I was trying to figure out an activity that wouldn’t hurt my arms, it hit me: I could look through all my cards from friends and family! How fun and relaxing, and it didn’t involve a pencil or a computer.

An hour into the affair I suddenly realized that my arms were aching. With growing dread, I realized—way too late—that all the unfolding, refolding, and flipping through of the letters required just as much from my hands as typing would have. I felt sick to my stomach and behaved very much like Dobby. “You’re so stupid,” I told myself. “Stupid. Stupid.” I kept thinking that after everything I’d done to try to protect my arms, I had just blown everything. I had ruined everything I’d worked for this year. If I couldn’t make it through the APs, it would be my fault.

The next two days I was in the worst pain I had been in all year—and at the very time when I needed my arms to be strongest. Something in the back of my mind whispered, Maybe God is having all this happen to show you how strong he is. Maybe he’ll get you through it, and you’ll come away seeing how great he is.

But I was too frightened to believe it. Another part of my mind yelled back, God isn’t that good.

So Monday morning arrived, and with it the AP biology exam. I sat down at a horribly uncomfortable desk. My feet could barely reach the floor (yeah, I’m kind of short), and to get high enough to write naturally on the desk I had to sit on the very edge of the chair, since the seat started in a valley in the back and rose up steeply from there (who designs these things anyway?). I picked up a pen, felt the pain, and thought, like I had all year, no way.

But I guess when God says that his ways are above ours, he really means it. And when he says he’s the God of the impossible, it’s actually true. Because I got through all three AP exams. I not only finished them, but I did my best on them.

hands

Friday night, when my last AP exam was over, I went into my room, closed the door, and whisper-shouted at the ceiling: “You did it!!” (I rarely use multiple exclamation points.) Then, in awe, “You did it. You did it. You got me through.” It was almost a question, not of doubt but unfathomable wonder. From a human point of view, there is no way I should’ve gotten through those tests, nine hours of holding a pencil, not to mention the other assignments I also had that week. But then, when were we ever supposed to look at things from a human point of view?

Guys, God is good. He is so good. He is so powerful. He is so above us in the best of ways. The whole point of this story is to say—to shout at the top of my lungs, to sing to all the world—that God is good. That when you are your very weakest, that is when he is strongest. That when everything looks impossible, that is when he reaches down to make it happen. That when you reach the coldest, loneliest part of the night, that is when he tells the sun to rise.

This whole year—well, my whole life actually—I have put limitations on God. I have told him that he can’t do things. Not directly exactly, but when I looked at that mountain and thought no way I can climb it, what I really was saying was no way you can help me climb it, God. I assumed that the only way for me to be able to complete the APs was by my own strength—by my clever planning, by all the appointments and exercises and remedies. Instead, God had every single plan of mine fall through. He set me in the middle at what appeared to be a worst-case scenario and then said, Watch what I can do.

I’ve always loved quotes like “the shadow proves the sunshine” and the verse about “my grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” But until this year, I’ve never truly lived them out. I’ve never experienced to them for myself.

This year has felt in some ways like a nightmare. I’ve always had a ridiculously low pain tolerance, and often I couldn’t believe this particular trial was happening to me. But if it hadn’t happened, I would never have experienced all the love I have. The love of my family (which deserves its own separate post) and the love of God have colored these painful days in strokes as glorious and vibrant as a sunset. When I think about last week, the week that haunted these past few months, my heart can’t stop dancing. I feel his smile all around me, and I keep thinking, “You did it!!

Our God is so much bigger than we let ourselves dream. And this is coming from someone who calls herself a dreamer. I used to feel like it was presumptuous and arrogant to ask God for things or to believe he’d really forgiven me. He has helped me and forgiven me so many times, who am I to ask him for more?

But I am learning (quite slowly, granted) that that’s just what he wants us to do. He wants us to keep coming back, keep asking for help and forgiveness, keep trusting him to do great things. Who am I to tell him he can only forgive me so many times? Who am I to limit God’s help to a finite number I determine? Isn’t this the place he most wants us to be, on our knees begging him for salvation? I’ve got to pound it into my head: he wants me to depend on him.

I’m graduating this week. It’s certainly not the senior year I was expecting; it was far harder than I could have imagined but also so much better. This quote sums up what I’ve learned—or really, what I’m learning:

[God’s] love disposes him to desire our everlasting welfare and his sovereignty enables him to secure it. {A W Tozer}

What a good God we have.


God is in the midst of her, she shall not be moved; God shall help her, just at the break of dawn.

The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge. {Psalm 46:5, 7}

I trust in the mercy of God forever and ever. I will praise you forever, because you have done it; and in the presence of your saints I will wait on your name, for it is good. {Psalm 52:9b-10}


So my arms are still fried from APs, but once school finishes this week, I won’t have to use them for much. Your prayers and support have meant so much. ❤ It would be such a blessing if you kept praying that my arms will completely heal. The hope is that by resting them this summer, they will heal enough for me to go to college this fall (more on college another time). That will require a lot of self-control on my part, and if you guys have any ideas of activities that don’t involve too much repetitive hand movements (like knitting xD) that would be awesome. =D

Okay, enough about me. I want to know how you are: How has this year been for you? What are some things you’ve learned? Am I the only one who thinks of God as way too small (please say no xD)? What are your summer plans?

a celebration of spring

A few weeks ago my family, aunt, and two cousins went to Keukenhof, a huge garden in the Netherlands with literally millions of flowers. The weather was perfect, and I took 400+ photos. *sheepish grin* My family kindly put up with me stopping every foot and snapping more pictures. There was just too much GORGEOUS. Anywho, I thought I’d share some of my favorites with you guys since I want to share more of my photography. Enjoy my little celebration of spring. 

(Also if you click on the pictures you can see a bigger version, which I’d recommend since I think they look better bigger. =D)


 

i thank You God for most this amazing
day: for the leaping greenly spirits of trees
and a blue true dream of sky; and for everything
which is natural which is infinite which is yes

(i who have died am alive again today,
and this is the sun’s birthday; this is the birth
day of life and of love and wings: and of the gay
great happening illimitably earth)

how should tasting touching hearing seeing
breathing any—lifted from the no
of all nothing—human merely being
doubt unimaginable You?

(now the ears of my ears awake and
now the eyes of my eyes are opened)

~ e. e. cummings

So, dear readers: How’s your spring coming? What kinds of natural beauty have you enjoyed? Which picture is your favorite? *hands out some lemonade and cookies*

 

holy week | poem 3

I was thinking about all the different characters in the Easter story, and I was intrigued by how Peter and Judas reacted to so differently to their failures and to the offer of forgiveness. 

judas-brought-again-the-thirty-pieces-of-silver-to-the-chief-priests-and-elders

They say he promised paradise to the sweat-stained, sin-soaked scumbag hanging next to him.

I saw when he looked at a prostitute with eyes that spoke not condemnation or revulsion but love, deep, unshakeable love.

But I can not believe any of that could be applied to me.

I am not just a murderer or a thief or a slut; I am a traitor.

The sound of thirty pieces of silver shattering in shame on the temple tiles haunts my steps.

The taste of the bread he handed me when marking me as the one sours my mouth even now.

The look in his eyes right before I kissed him with my lying, poisoned mouth—

No.

I am impossibly far from mercy.

Impossible. After all I have seen him do, I dare to declare that.

So I turn my back on the light, and I run headlong into the darkness

With monsters whispering in my ears of despair, of my sin, of the blood on my hands that is seeping into the fetid depths of my charred heart,

Of me me me me wretched me.

They tell me that I am a good man, to recognize my sin, to hate it so much, to consider it so great as beyond redemption,

That at least in this I am not betraying him.

I do not see that all I am really doing is saying that he is too weak to ransom me.

That my sin is more powerful than his love.

And so my death gains not my absolution

But only proclaims my greatest blasphemy.

Silhouettes rooster crows in the morning

I remember when I first met him.

I was sweat-soaked and red-faced, the odor of fish permeating my clothes and skin.

The numbing repetition of my days had snuffed out any dreams. There was no escape from my destiny of loud, stupid, reeking fisherman.

And then he looked into my eyes, piercing me like I would a fish,

And what could I do but follow?

For he looked at me like I had some sort of worth.

When he looked at me, I felt like a warrior. I felt the rags of my past life slipping away.

He pulled me up from the waves and called me his rock.

And I betrayed him.

When I needed him, he saved me.

When he needed me, I abandoned him.

I was ashamed of him. It was like a sickness had invaded me, like I was falling into a swirling vortex, dizzy and dark. I raged against it even as I gave into its clutches.

When the rooster crowed, I thought

I’ll kill myself. 

I don’t want to live anymore. I don’t deserve to live anymore.

And then I saw him. He saw me.

His eyes bored straight into mine, like the first time—

I’ll kill myself

And all I saw was

Forgiveness. Compassion. Love.

So I didn’t kill myself, but I ran away anyway,

Back to my boat and the only thing I was good for. Who had I been kidding these past few years?

But again he sought me out

And again he told me I had a purpose, that I was his rock.

Forgiveness.

Who was I to take it? Three times, I had spit on him, on all he had given me.

I had made it to so very clear that I wanted nothing to do with him.

And here he was, hand outstretched, saying it again,

Follow me.

And I realized that it wasn’t about me, about my failures, that to truly love him would be to accept his love.

It is finished, he had said.

Who was I to say, no, it’s not, I must redeem myself? Who was I to say that I even could?

So I took his hand, and he pulled me up,

As he would do again and again and again the rest of my life.

holy week | poem one

*appears with a dramatic flourish of my cape* Hey hey hey. Spring break is this week for me, which means more fun writing (well, any fun writing at all). It happens to line up with Holy Week, which I’m really happy about because I wanted to write some Easter poems. Ugh, guys, I’ve missed poetry writing so much I can’t even describe it. Not being able to do NaPo this year is painful. But this week I’ll be doing what I can, and I’m excited to share whatever poems or musings I come up with. *prances about happily* Okay, let’s get started. 

So. Palm Sunday. Here’s the story if you don’t know it.


palm

when we sang

hosanna

we were dreaming of

white horses and grand armies,

freedom from oppression

and the destruction of Rome

we imagined riches and peace

and comfort and defeated enemies

so we paved the path with palm branches

and all these gilded dreams

and we cried

hosanna

`

but when your path led only

to shame and pain and dark,

when instead of conquering the Romans

you became their next victim,

their next victory,

how could we sing

hosanna

then?

`

this does not look like what we dreamed

this is not glory and power and freedom

this is suffering and sorrow and sacrifice

this is hard and lonely and

we do not want it

`

we will only sing

hosanna

when you give us what we think we want

when your path lines up with our dreams

when you save us from anything but ourselves

an unseen kingdom, a spit-soaked cross

is too high a price for our

hosanna