Friday, January 29, 2016

Top Five Lines from Downton Abbey, S6:E4

What’s in a name?

I think that should have been the title of this week’s episode of Downton Abbey.

Did you catch the theme? Name. Reputation. Honor. It was all there.

Interestingly, most of the epiphanies came from Downstairs. Not too surprising, I guess—the Upstairs folks continue to live in their dream worlds, whatever those worlds happen to be.

But the Downstairs folks. They are the ones who get it. The world is moving on. Reputation will get you places. Your name matters.

Take Mrs. . . . C-c-c-c-Carson, for example. Nobody can quite get their tongue around that name (thanks to Violet for that visual), so in the end Mr. Carson proposes that they all just keep calling her Mrs. Hughes.

Mrs. Hughes just smiles and says nothing.

Her name is intact.

And Daisy. The idealistic girl was willing to risk her reputation to get what she thought was “fair” for Mr. Mason (did you not love it when Mrs. Patmore referred to her as Karl Marx?!), and somehow, in the end, she looked like a hero.

Mr. Mason even tells her that it’s her good name that rescues him in the end.

So glad she didn’t actually have a chance to speak up when she tried to accost Lady Grantham in the hallway.

I’d call that a bullet dodged.

And finally, there’s Molesley. The sweetest man Downstairs. The one whose reputation is golden. The one who knows the importance of honor.


And the one who can quote Edmund Burke. (Points to anyone who remembers what he said.)

If I were Miss Baxter I’d thrown down my dishtowel and fall into his arms of rescue. He’s just waiting for that, isn’t he?

And so are we.

Anyway, my reputation will be mud if I don’t “get on” as they say Downstairs. So here we go with my Top Five.

There were so many good lines in this episode. I’m not sure how I’ll choose the best.

1. Let’s start with Violet, shall we? She had a couple of good zingers that made me laugh, so I have to include them.

First, over tea with her friend, Lady Shackleton, Violet presses her to take her side in the dreaded hospital debate. (Honestly, I don’t know where this story line is going. It’s baffled me from the beginning.)

Anyway, Lady S. asks Violet, “How can I present myself as an expert when I don’t know the facts?”

To which Violet responds, 

“Well it’s never stopped me!”

Later, as Violet and Isobel argue about the hospital for the umpteenth time over dinner, Edith tries to come to the rescue. “I suppose Cousin Isobel is entitled to put up an argument.”

To which Violet storms back:

“Well of course she is, but she’s not entitled to win it!”


I think Violet is running out of ammunition.

2. Let’s talk about the situation with Gwen for a minute. Again, it’s about the name.

Cora didn’t remember her. At all. Name forgotten.

Rosamund is enamored with the reputation of Mr. Harding, Gwen’s husband, giving Gwen an “in” with the Downton crowd. Reputation by association (or, in this case, marriage).


And then there’s Thomas (we’ll talk about his reputation in a moment) who exposes Gwen, thinking this will disparage her name, but his plan backfires. Remember? He brings up her former employment in the house in an attempt to embarrass Gwen, but Gwen is rescued by her own grace and charm.

And Sybil.

Gwen notes how Sybil helped her get her first job with the telephone company, which led to her meeting her husband. It’s a bit of a long story, but as everyone sits listening, they smile as they think of the best among them who was taken too soon.

Gwen tells the family,

“I’ll never forget her. Her kindness saved my life.”

It makes you wonder what would have happened to the family had Sybil lived.

Back to Thomas. No matter how hard he tries (not that hard, actually), his reputation seems to denigrate. Even Robert gave him a dressing down after the "Gwen incident" telling him he doesn't like to see such things.

Oh, Thomas.

3. Back up a minute to when the family was meeting Mr. and Mrs. Harding for the first time. Sorry, things are out of order today, but this one was too funny to pass up.

They are talking about education for women, the women’s college that they are all involved with now, and Isobel is preening over women’s issues the way she does.

Yea, women!

They ask to hear Gwen’s story, and she tells them that she didn’t have any higher education.

To which Mary replied, 

“Who did? All we were taught was French, prejudice, and dance steps.”

So clever, Mary! Just think of how charming you’d be if you actually HAD had an education.

4. Mary had some wonderful quips in this episode. As well as some jabs.

I’m not sure which category this quote falls into, but I loved it so I have to include it.

First, you’ll remember handsome Henry Talbot, Lady Shackleton’s nephew. He’s mysterious. He’s from London, the son of a Parliamentarian. He’s oh-so-handsome. And he’s a racecar driver!


He offers her his card when they meet at Downton, and he tells her he hopes they can meet for lunch . . . or something . . . when she’s next in London.

Mary’s practically foaming at the mouth, but she’s playing it cool.

Flirting is her strong suit.

The two beautiful people do meet up for dinner in London (nevermind the fact that Anna is having a serious medical crisis—Mary’s going to have fun!) in a posh restaurant favored by car lovers. I smell a fling if there ever was one.


Mary glances coyly at the menu and says, 

I hope this means you’re boiling up to make a pass before we’re done.”

Talbot replies, “Probably. But will you accept?”

Mary, with a slight raise of an eyebrow says, 

“No. But I shall enjoy the process enormously.”

I think Henry Talbot actually blushed!!

I know I blushed earlier in the episode when Violet was talking to Robert about Mary and said, 

“Mary needs more than a handsome smile . . . and a hand on the gearstick.”

Honestly, Granny!

5. I hate only having to choose five lines because this week there were so many good ones. But alas, I must choose.

And this, I think, was my favorite of the entire episode.

Daisy and Mrs. Patmore are sitting in the kitchen together, gossiping as usual. Daisy says, “I wonder what Mrs. Hughes is up to.”


Mrs. Patmore, resting her chin in her hand, sighs. 

“Ah, she knows the mystery of life by now . . . unlike me.”

Poor Mrs. Patmore. Don’t you just want to see her find her one true love?

*sigh*

And with that I’ll leave you to go out and make a name for yourself.

*****
For the record, Edmund Burke once famously said, “All that’s needed for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.

A good reminder to all of us.

*****


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Thursday, January 21, 2016

Top Five Lines from Downton Abbey :: S6:E3


Well now, Episode 3 was a happy episode, wasn’t it? Even the foreshadowing was happy.

Daisy studying for her exams with Mr. Molesley helping her.

Anna smiling like the Cheshire Cat.

Edith taking charge of the magazine. And her mysterious helper staying up all night to get the magazine out. (Who was that guy again? And why is he helping her? Does he have editing experience? Is he looking for a job? What on earth?!)

Anyway . . .

Even though the foreshadowing was fun, the actual episode was also happy and marvelous and lovely.

WE HAD A WEDDING, FOR CRYING OUT LOUD!! And weddings are always wonderful.

But at Downton, every wedding must come with a little drama.

1. And so we begin with wedding drama. Mrs. Hughes and Mrs. Patmore head upstairs to the servants’ bedrooms where Mrs. Hughes is “showing off” her pathetic brown day dress that she chose to get married in.

As they climb the stairs, Mrs. P. tries to get her BFF excited about the wedding, but Mrs. Hughes will have nothing of it. She’s still complaining about the reception being in the Big House.

“I wanted a big wedding breakfast with all of us set at groaning tables having a jolly time.”

Mrs. Patmore asks, “Why can’t you have that?”

And Mrs. Hughes delivers a line I won’t soon forget:

Because it’s not how posh people do it. They stand around with nibbly bits gettin’ stuck in their teeth and that’s what we have to do.”

You know, I was at a party with some pretty posh people a couple of weeks ago and I didn’t see any nibbly bits caught in anybody’s teeth. I’ll have to be on the lookout for that in the future.

[Note: Several of you last week thought I was being kind of unfair to Mrs. H. for complaining about the wedding being held in the Big House. I get it—she should have the wedding she wants—but I still think she was acting rather like a spoiled child over it. And apparently it worked!]

2. Violet always pleases, doesn’t she? This week was no exception since she gets two spots on my list.

Her first great line came rather early on as she visits the Abbey to talk to Robert about this infernal hospital situation. She’s worried that Robert is actually thinking about the merits of Isobel’s side of things.


Robert admits that he’s been talking to Cora about it, to which Violet responds, “Well that is a mistake.”

Robert pushes back: “You can’t expect me to avoid talking to my own wife.”

Violet, without even blinking:

Why not? I know several couples who are perfectly happy. Haven’t spoken in years.”

3. And then there was the hospital meeting in Dr. Clarkson’s office. Isobel is in rare form up on that high horse of hers, insulting Dr. Clarkson about his soon-to-be-diminished authority around HER hospital.

As she blabs on and on, Isobel comes off as brazen and proud and rude, as usual, even calling Clarkson just “one more local doctor.”

Everyone around the circle just sits there with their mouths hanging open. 


Finally, breaking the tension, Violet cocks her head and sarcastically asks Isobel:

Did you . . . drink at luncheon?”

I don’t know why, but something about the way she asked that question had me laughing so hard.

And Isobel didn’t even get the joke.

4. Now on to the good stuff—the wedding. So many great lines that I’ll have to pick just a few.

First, how about when Baxter and Anna come in with that troublesome wedding jacket in their hands?


“We’ve come to dress the Bride!”

To which Mrs. Hughes says,

“Well now, there’s a sentence I thought I’d never hear.”

And then there was the actual wedding ceremony itself. So simple. So understated. They didn’t even show much of the ceremony—I guess Carson and Hughes wanted to keep it private.


But they did show Carson putting the ring on her finger while stating his vows, which I absolutely loved.

“With this ring; I thee wed.
With my body, I thee worship.
And with all my worldly goods I thee endow.”

*sigh*

Why don’t we say vows like that anymore? They are so beautiful, so poetic. And they carry so much weight.

*sigh again*

And finally, how about that toast? Carson with just the right words again. The man knows how to make a statement, doesn’t he?

“I will not be prolix, but it must be right that I mark that I am the happiest and luckiest of men. That a woman of such grace and charm would entrust her life’s happiness to my unworthy charge passeth all understanding.”

So sweet.

5. And then. The happiest surprise of them all (although, for the record, I called this one during the first episode)! Tom!

(Oh yeah, and Sibbie! Daaahling!)


I had to go back and watch this scene again just to capture the looks of surprise and joy on everyone’s faces. I’m sure mine looked just as thrilled.

I’M SO GLAD TOM’S BACK!!!! And I’m pretty sure he’s back for good.

And I’m pretty sure there will be another wedding down the road.

And no I haven’t watched ahead.

I loved how Tom summed up his time in America and his reason for coming back:

“It’s quite simple. I had to go to Boston to figure something out. I learned that Downton is my home and you are my family.”

Oh yes you are, Grantham clan. You’re in it with the chauffeur forever it looks like to me.

And thank goodness for that, amiright?

Till next week. . . .

*****

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Monday, January 18, 2016

Four Books for Your New Year


Part of what makes blogging fun for me is the chance to preview new books or books that haven’t even hit the shelves yet. Today I’m sharing some of these new books with you. The quiet of January seems to be a perfect time to catch up on some reading—maybe one or two of these would be just right for you.


Choose Joy by Sara Frankl and Mary Carver

Get your Kleenex ready for this one. My real-life friend, Mary Carver, has compiled several blog posts that tell about the life, illness, and death of Sara Frankl, and I couldn’t be prouder of Mary’s accomplishment here.

A little background: Sara suffered from a rare genetic disorder (brought about by a car accident when she was in college of all things!) that became so severe that she could not leave her home. As a young, homebound woman, Sara found an outlet and a connection to the outside world through her blog, Gitzen Girl. The wisdom, kindness, and generosity of spirit that Sara shared with her readers were qualities of a woman far beyond her 30- some years. In this book, Mary shares Sara’s life and background along with some of her more poignant posts.

I was a faithful reader of Gitzen Girl, following Sara’s trials until her death in 2011, and I, like Mary, was deeply affected by Sara’s life and words. I think you will appreciate Sara’s wisdom and thoughts about life in this beautiful book as much as I did.



Again, I’ve read Kristen’s blog, We Are THAT Family, since it began, and I have loved her heart, her wisdom, and her parenting style. In this book, Kristen lays out how she and her husband have raised their kids in a counter-cultural way. So much of what Kristen says here resonates with me, and I highly recommend this book. I’m sure many parents who read this will be challenged to think carefully about their families, about society, and about how we raise kids to be world-changers.

Yes, there is much in the book about teaching gratitude, as the title suggests, but as I read the book I couldn’t help thinking that a few of the chapters weren’t so much about teaching kids to be thankful as they were about how Kristen and her husband parent their children. The title was a little confusing to me.

I also noted several ways in which their parenting style and ours are different—we all parent just a little differently from each other anyway, don’t we? But I still found several chapters challenging, convicting, and helpful for young parents.


Hope for the Weary Mom Devotional by Stacey Thacker and Brooke McGlothlin.

More real-life friends here! Stacey, who started Mothers ofDaughters (where I contribute monthly) and Brooke, who started the MOB Society (for moms of boys), first linked writing arms to bring us Hope for the Weary Mom. In their most recent book they share 40-days of devotional thoughts aimed specifically for those of us who struggle to feel seen, loved, and understood along our journey of motherhood.

I loved this book because the devotionals are short, scriptural, and point us to the heart of God for moms. I could relate so well to those early days of motherhood, feeling alone and pretty much a mess and wondering if anyone knew how hard it all was for me. Brooke and Stacey reassure us that God sees, He knows, and He cares deeply about moms.

If you have young children, or if you’re a mom whose looking for a sound, scriptural devotional, I recommend this book.


Hoodwinked by Karen Ehman and Ruth Schwenk.

This books was a surprise to me. I honestly didn’t think I was going to like it because, like most people, I do judge a book by its cover. And, in my opinion, this cover isn’t the best.

But when I dug into the heart of the book, I found that I really enjoyed it. In fact, on almost every page I found myself thinking, “That’s me! I did that! I thought that!”

Hoodwinked is a book about debunking the myths of motherhood and replacing the lies we all sometimes believe with Scriptural truths. For me, the chapter titled “Myth #2: The Way I Mother is the Right (and Only) Way,” was worth the price of the book alone! And also? I loved the phrase “Mommier-than-thou” that they used to describe some of our more judgmental mommy moments. Had me laughing out loud.

In each chapter the authors somehow manage to be convicting about the myths we hold on to and grace-filled about the ways we have felt judged as moms. Filled with biblical truth and practical knowledge, this is a great book for moms who need to push a reset button in their thinking. As I said, I was surprised about how much I liked this book.

So mamas, are you looking for some wintertime reading? Why not check out one or two of these books. You might find yourself laughing or crying, but they might also help make those long, dreary days of winter go just a little bit faster. 

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Top Five Lines from Downton Abbey – S6; E2

You all know why I love writing these Downton post, don’t you? It’s because I get to go back and watch the episode a second (and sometimes third) time. And when I watch the episode by myself, I catch so many more great lines than just the ones that my family and I laughed at (or swooned at) the night before.

Which is also why some of my favorite lines might be a little obscure to you.

A couple of you mentioned that you fully expected to see the “wigs on the green” line here this week. While funny, I suppose, Isobel was just being her self-righteous self and that doesn’t always appeal to me. So that won’t be showing up. (Although I guess it just did.)

And since cooking is one of my favorite things, Mrs. Patmore’s line, ““I know it’s cheating, but I might have to buy a jar of horseradish,” totally cracked me up and should have made my list this week. But, alas, I didn’t have room for it. (Except I did. *wink wink*)

And then there was the line I loved this week that wasn’t so much a line as a look. Remember when Mr. Finch, the livestock man, wanted to talk to someone in charge about the Fat Stock Show in Molton? Mary told him that she was replacing Mr. Branson as the estate agent, and poor Mr. Finch looked like he had swallowed . . . well . . . a finch.


So many great moments in Episode 2.

But I must get on to my top five lines.


1. This episode opens with Mary and Edith sniping at each other . . . again. Over breakfast. Poor Robert can’t even eat his eggs in silence.

They read their letters, and Mary speculates that Rose must be pregnant. Edith asks Mary why she thinks that, and Mary says it’s because Rose says she might not be able to travel in the summer.

Huh?

Edith gets the last word, however, when she says,

“As usual you add two and two to make 53.”

I’ll be using that one.

2. Anna confides in Mary (way too much, if you ask me) about her problem maintaining a pregnancy, and immediately Mary insists on helping her. She decides to take Anna to her doctor in London.

Anna rebuffs Mary’s offer of help—it will cost too much. She’s probably worried that Mary will get her into this mess and then neglect to actually pay for it. But Mary is adamant.

“Don’t be silly! You’ve earned it fair and square keeping my secrets. Hiding that fearful Dutch thingamajig and carrying poor Mr. Pamuk down the gallery at the dead of night.”

The two giggle like schoolgirls just thinking about the Pamuk episode.

And so do we.

Later, Anna tells Bates that she and Mary will be headed to London for a quick overnight trip.

Bates doesn’t even question the trip because those poor servants had no say in the matter. When the mistress of the house wants to go to London, you drop everything and go.

(What if Anna had her bunco group coming over that night? She’d totally have to cancel her plans.)

Anyway, Bates sees this as an opportunity for Anna to get some rest after her most recent miscarriage.

“Well, be sure to put your feet up.”

Anna replies,

“Yes, I’ll be . . . putting my feet up.”

Anyone else catch that bit of irony?

3. I guess I can’t avoid talking about the hospital takeover, although I wish I could. That storyline is already boring me to tears.

(BUT SERIOUSLY, HOW ABOUT CORA’S HAT IN THE HOSPITAL SCENE?!—the one with the pheasant feathers. Oh my gorgeousness. I am loving all of the clothes so far this season.)

So Cora goes to the hospital for a tour (as if she’s never been there before, right?) with Violet and Dr. Clarkson (Team Vi). While they are there, who shows up but Isobel, whom Cora thinks is right about the whole takeover thing (Team I).

Eventually Cora decides to leave, but not before Isobel can get in one last lick:

“I’ll come with you. We must give them time to gnash their teeth alone.”

Which is exactly what Dr. Clarkson and Violet do.

“I can’t deny it,” Clarkson admits, “Lady Downton would have made a powerful ally.”

Violet, shooting daggers at him says,

I hope you’re not implying that she would be more powerful than I.”

Oh never, Violet. Never!


4. Could we have a moment of silence for the tenant farmers?

(Wait.)

(Wait.)

(Wait.)

Who knew that they lived under such fear of losing their homes and their livelihoods pretty much every single day? I sure didn’t. But it’s starting to make sense to me, especially after Daisy’s rant in Episode 1.

And Poor Mr. Drewe. (Cue Cora’s pseudo-sympathetic tone.)

The man has his hands full, you’ve gotta admit. What with the pigs and Mary as his new boss and his four kids and his crazy-a** wife to deal with.

His family had been at Yew Tree Farm for over a hundred years for goodness sake!!

Didn’t matter.

I really almost lost it during the scene between Mr. Drewe and Robert at the end. There was no loud discussion. No pleading. Nobody claiming injustice.

Everyone just knew that Mrs. Drewe had screwed up royally and something needed to be done. Someone would have to pay and it sure wasn’t going to be the Granthams.

But Mr. Drewe took it like a man and said he’d start looking for a new tenancy in the morning. Adding this killer:

“We made a plan, lady Edith and I. But we forgot about emotion. And emotion’s what will trip you up every time.”


Sure is, Mr. Drewe. Sure is.

And then Robert has to go and show his human side!

“God bless you, Drewe. God bless you and your family.”

Pass the tissues.

And hand the key to Mr. Mason on your way out.

5. I think I’ve saved the best for last. Carson and Hughes.

(Sounds like a comedy team from the ‘40s.)

I think they had their first fight in this episode. Last time they were just discussing The Unmentionable, but this time it was all out war over their wedding venue.

The Great Hall of Downton Abbey is unsuitable for the wedding, according to Mrs. Hughes, but Carson can’t seem to tell the family “Thanks but no thanks.”

Now, could we just stop and think about that for a moment? The Great Hall. Of Downton Abbey. Unsuitable?

Just who does Mrs. Hughes think she is??

I’d give anything to have a wedding in a place like that. And these days you’d pay a pretty penny to have a wedding in the Great Hall of Downton Abbey, if, indeed, such a place existed.

So seriously, who is Mrs. Hughes to thumb her nose at such a generous offer?

She might need a little time out to think about her actions.

But Mrs. Hughes has a point to make (as does Julian Fellowes), and make it she does.

“I want my own wedding to be done in my own way, is that so outlandish?”

You gotta give it to Carson. He tries. He really does.

“It’s my wedding too.”

(I think I’ve heard that one before, too.)

But Mrs. Hughes holds her ground and delivers my favorite line from this episode.

“I am the bride. We’ll be doing it your way for the next 30 years, I know that well enough, but the wedding day is mine.”

Enough said.


*****

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Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Top Five Lines from Downton Abbey, S6:E1

Alright, folks. Here’s the deal. I wasn’t going to blog about Downton Abbey this year. I’m supposed to be a “serious” writer this year. I’m supposed to write about big stuff, important stuff, life-changing stuff, so that I can build my platform.

Yeah. That.

But here’s the deal. I actually love writing about Downton Abbey (not that I don’t love writing about serious stuff too—obviously I do), and it seems some of you actually like reading my DA posts.

I also think writing should be fun. And helpful. And, at times, entertaining.

Plus, IT’S THE LAST SEASON OF DOWNTON.

So, with all that in mind, I’ve made a momentous decision (cue the trumpets)—I will still be blogging about Downton Abbey this year.

I know. Your world has now been set right on its axis. You’re welcome.

I hope I can do justice to your expectations this year (kind of like British justice, as Robert said, “The envy of the world.”). Maybe then my platform will skyrocket.

*plants tongue firmly in cheek*

Now, as those of you who closely follow Downton already realize, we’re starting off with a bit of a problem: I’m a week behind. I haven’t blogged Episode 1 yet, but Episode 2 has already aired here in America (forget the Brits—they’ve seen it all already).

What are we to do?

We’re going to do what any good Downton character would do.

(Photo Credit: Paula Wilding)

We’re going to recap Episode 1 today and follow it up with Episode 2 tomorrow. Then we’ll be all caught up and you can come back here on Tuesdays for your latest DA Top Five from here on out.

Ready? Here we go!

******

Season Six starts in epic Downton fashion—with a hunt. Nothing says Downton Abbey better than men in top hats, red jackets with gold buttons, white jodhpurs, and shiny black boots.


And then there are Dogs! Horses! Drinks in silver cups!

(Oh, and don’t forget the creepy woman shooting daggers at Lady Mary.)

I think that pretty much sets the tone.

It’s 1925. (For some reason they are taking great pains to remind us of that this year.)

Of course, life at Downton isn’t all riding and hunting. It wouldn’t be Downton if we didn’t have a little drama, and the drama starts early this season with Mrs. Hughes, who, you will remember, is betrothed to Mr. Carson.

Yet, for a couple that is supposedly betrothed, they sure haven’t talked about much yet.

Of course, it is 1925. Remember?

1. Anyway, early on we get one of my favorite lines from this episode. A line that might just go down as one of my all-time favorite lines from all six seasons of Downton Abbey.

You remember, surely.

Mrs. Hughes calls Mrs. Patmore into her room to discuss something juicy because all the juicy gossip happens upstairs in the servants’ bedrooms. She closes the door and discloses to Mrs. Patmore that she’s just not sure if, after they are married, Mr. Carson will want her “as I am now.”

To which Mrs. Patmore, who by this time has made it perfectly clear that she’s no expert in marital matters, replies:

“Perhaps you can keep the lights off.”

I’m giggling just thinking about it.

2. Later, Mrs. Patmore (side note: why is she called MRS. Patmore if she’s never been married?) enters the kitchen, visibly upset because she’s agreed to do the dirty work for Mrs. Hughes and talk to Mr. Carson. Daisy picks up on this and asks Mrs. P. what’s wrong, using what I assume is an old English platitude, but one I had never heard before:

“A problem shared is a problem halved.”

I thought that was lovely.

3. Violet and Isobel are back to their old antics this season. I have a feeling Julian Fellowes is going to make the most of these two this time around because they have already shared some fantastic jabs.

One of my favorites was when the two were discussing the unfortunate decline in status of one of their neighbors who was forced to sell his estate at auction.

(The disgrace!)

Violet thinks it’s unseemly to have to sell everything, especially in front of all of those people, to which Isobel quickly retorts, “Well, you and I differ when it comes to the importance of things.”

Violet verbally slaps her:

“Does it ever get cold on the moral high ground?”

4. Anna learns in Episode 1 that she is no longer a suspect in Mr. Green’s murder—someone has conveniently come forward to confess to the crime. (I have a confession of my own: I didn’t even remember that storyline.)

Anna’s response to the policeman who brought the news was beautiful:

“Give her a message for me. Say I forgive her and wish her luck.”

5. You knew I’d get back to Mrs. Hughes and Mr. Carson, right? 


How could I not? Their story was so good this week! 

First we have Mr. Carson and Mrs. Patmore trying for a second time to have The Most Uncomfortable Conversation Ever. The light bulb finally goes off for Carson—what a great facial expression that was!—and Mrs. P. lets out a sigh of relief.

(It would have just been so much easier if they could have just said the word “s. e. x.” wouldn’t it?)

Anyway, they have come to an understanding. Both are relieved, yet they both aren’t quite sure what to do next. What should Mrs. Patmore tell Mrs. Hughes?

(It’s like junior high all over again!)

Mr. Carson then delivers the line that any woman of any generation in any place on earth would love to hear from her man: 

I love her, Mrs. Patmore. I am happy and tickled and bursting with pride that she would agree to be my wife. And I want us to live as closely as two people can for the time that remains to us on earth.”

*swoon*

Truthfully, every time I read that line I get tears in my eyes.

Later, Mrs. Hughes and Mr. Carson are alone in his office, finally talking about what they should have been talking about all along. They agree that they will have a “real marriage,” as Mr. Carson calls it.

*giggle* 

(Yes, I'm in junior high.)

Mrs. Hughes, still a little uncertain, says, “Well then, if you’re sure you still want me . . .” to which Mr. Carson replies, 

“I have never been so sure of anything.”

*sigh*

And then he kisses her tenderly.

Fade to black and all’s right with the world.

Until tomorrow.

*****


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Thursday, January 7, 2016

Some Thoughts on Christian Identity


This week (January 8) marks the 60th anniversary of the martyrdom of Jim Elliot, Nate Saint, Ed McCully, Pete Fleming, and Roger Youdarian, missionaries to a remote tribe in Equador. I’ve been thinking and reading about these men, their families, and their sacrifice this week, wondering what it all means in our world today, a world that looks very different from the world of 1956.

Certainly mission work is done very differently today, perhaps as a result of this martyrdom. Nevertheless, the work of these men and the sacrifices of their families cannot be discounted. In fact, two years after their deaths, the wife of Jim Elliot, Elisabeth, along with Nate Saint’s sister, returned to Equador to live among the Auca people—the very people who had killed their husband, father, and brother. Elisabeth Elliot and Rachel Saint loved these people, and today, many Aucas now follow Christ.

This week I read a moving account of some of their life and ministry among the Aucas in a talk given by Elisabeth Elliot in 1983. (You can read it yourself here and her.) In this same talk, Elisabeth encourages college students to really think about their lives and to decide ahead of time what their lives will stand for. Will it be Christ? Or something else?

Lately I’ve been thinking about our identity in Christ. What does this mean? What should it mean? What difference does it make in my life? Because the day may be coming when I will have to decide where my identity truly lies.

For Jim Elliot, identity with Christ meant everything. It meant delaying marriage until he knew God was calling him to it. It meant loving a people enough to give up a comfortable life in order to bring them the Good News of Jesus Christ. And, ultimately, it meant obedience to the call of God that would bring him to his death at the age of 29.

Was Jim Elliot a fool? Some might say he was. But the Aucas who now know Christ might have a different answer. And the thousands, if not millions, who have been since affected by his and Elisabeth’s story might also answer differently.

Jim Elliot laid everything on the line for the cause of Jesus Christ.

Did he go to Equador to identify with the Auca people? That wasn’t his purpose. Did he change his clothes and wear their ceremonial headgear as a sign of solidarity with them? No. Did he take on an Auca identity? No. Because he knew that doing so would be like saying, “You’re O.K. the way you are. You just need a little Jesus band-aid to make your life better.”

Jim Elliot knew that a Jesus band-aid would not solve the salvation problem of a people. He knew that a complete life transformation would be necessary, so he stepped in to show them that a full life with Jesus was what they needed. What we all need.

Some might ask whether these missionaries truly cared about these people or whether they were simply trying to gain conversion notches in their belts. I’d say that anyone who would be willing to sacrifice life and family in order to share Jesus with them must absolutely have love in his heart toward these people. History shows that not only did the five men enjoy a banquet with the tribe when they arrived, but also that Jim Elliot had a gun in his pocket on the day he was speared to death. He didn’t use it because all five of these men had decided ahead of time that they would not kill another person, even if their own lives were in danger.

Jim Elliot knew his purpose and he knew his identity.

When the apostle Paul encountered Christ on the Damascus road—a road on which he was travelling so that he could find and persecute Christians—his whole life changed and he was never the same after that. Scripture tells us that Paul was a completely different person, both in thought and in demeanor, after he met Jesus. He no longer persecuted anyone—he loved. He said, “It is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me” (Galatians 2:20).

Throughout his letters Paul tells his readers that an identity with Christ means that everything is different. Our way doesn’t matter anymore—only Christ’s way matters. Our rights don’t matter either—we give up our rights to follow Christ. Our dignity doesn’t count for anything—as Paul said, it’s all dung (or garbage) compared to knowing Christ Jesus (Philippians 3:8).

Paul makes it clear that our identity is gone, vanished, when we take up the cause of Christ. And Jesus is worth it. Just ask Elisabeth Elliot, now rejoicing in heaven with her savior.

You’re probably wondering why I’m wrestling with all this. Why am I writing such a long post on a topic on which most Christians would agree with me?

Here’s why. And here’s what has been rolling around in my head for the past couple of months—an Instagram post that said this: “The day a Muslim is required to register as a Muslim in this country is the day I register as a Muslim.” Now I’m not going to argue the politics of this statement; what struck me about this statement was something not political at all.

What struck me about this statement was how quickly and how flippantly this person was willing to cast aside their identity as a Christian (they do claim to be a Christian) and to identify with another religion entirely.

You see, to me (and I’d say to Jim Elliot and to the apostle Paul as well), being a Christian means identifying with Jesus and all that goes along with it. It means being willing to accept ridicule, suffering, even death, if that’s what God calls me to. It means changing my way of thinking as well as my way of living. And it’s not something I can easily cast aside.

Because what I have been thinking about is is it worth it? Is Jesus really worth it? Is the sacrifice that Jesus made when he left his heavenly home, came to earth, lived among sinful people, and died a martyr’s death—is all of that worth it to me?

It is.

He is worth it.

But when I see flippant statements of people willing to identify so cavalierly with something other than Christ, I feel an unease in my soul. Like it’s an affront to all that the gospel stands for and an affront to the suffering of Christ on the cross. Jesus didn’t call us to identify with others to make them feel better about their choices. In fact, Jesus didn’t care much about the choices of others. He cared about the truth and he spoke it with boldness.

Yes, He loved and we are called to love. For sure.

We are also called to speak truth, and the truth is that there is no other way to live apart from Christ. The truth is that if we have identified with Christ, we cannot put our identity elsewhere. The truth is that we lessen the meaning of the cross when we put a Jesus band-aid on another person’s religion.

Christ is everything.

May I live it boldly.

May I proclaim it with my life.

May I love others well because of it. 

Monday, January 4, 2016

2015 - The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Hey there! Where've you been?

Just kidding. I know I've been AWOL for a while now. As my dad reminded me at Christmas, we're still looking at Butternut Squash Soup.

Sorry, Dad. Here's something new to chew on. (Get it?!)

Anyway, there are lots of reasons that I haven't been around--most of them have to do with travel and none of them are really good excuses at all. It's a new year, though, and a new chance to share life with all of you.

Today I thought I'd share a bit about my 2015. I realize I haven't been consistent about writing (which is something I'd like to correct in 2016), but I've tried to focus on quality over quantity in my blog posts. I hope that's something I've achieved just a little bit in 2015.

So here we go with a bit of a review. Some might be redundant and some might be news to you, but hopefully all will point to the faithfulness of a loving Father. He has been so good to me.

The Good
As I looked back through my Instagram feed, I realized that I logged a lot of miles in 2015. I've traveled a ton, which is so cool because it's one thing I absolutely LOVE to do. I've traveled from New York to Austin, TX to Arizona to San Antonio to Eagle River, WI to Scotland to Italy to California to Dallas (with a side trip to Magnolia in Waco!) to Europe (again) and back to Dallas.



I'm tired just thinking about it.

And the funny thing is, I didn't even realize I had gone to so many places until I scrolled through Instagram!


It's time to stay home for a while now.

Anyway, in addition to travel, we had guests in our home--another thing that I LOVE. People from all over the world, people we love and care about, even strangers-who-became-friends have all stayed in our home this year. We've loved every minute of it.

We hope for more visitors in 2016.

The other really GOOD thing has been time with family, which accounts for part of the travel and part of the guests in our home. I'm grateful that our parents are still in good health and able to come see us. And I'm grateful for times together that have enriched all of our lives this year.


Finally, our kids are also GOOD. Caroline graduated from college this spring, which was a GREAT thing, and our two oldest are both employed full time in jobs that they love. Julia got accepted to her top (and only!) choice for college and will start there in the fall. Big stuff.


The Bad
With so much GOOD, it's hard to imagine that there could have been any BAD in our year, but unfortunately there was. The main thing that sticks out to me is that I attended three funerals of men who died much too young. It's been a heartbreaking year as dear friends of ours lost a son and two colleagues of mine from Wheaton died within a week of each other.

These have been hard to think about and pray through, let alone write about, but God has shown his steadfast love through it all. And I know that my sadness over these losses does not even come close to the grief that their families are feeling. (Your prayers for these families would mean a lot, I know.)

The Ugly
If I'm really honest, I'd have to say that I've had some personal defeats this year that have been hard on me.

A student whom I had mentored for three years left school suddenly in the spring. That was probably the single biggest disappointment that I have had to deal with this year (so deep I just couldn't write about it). I've cried many tears and prayed many prayers over the nine months or so that this dear girl has been gone, and I still miss her. I'm holding on to the knowledge that God knows her, loves her, and is pursuing her like crazy.

I left my teaching position at Wheaton College at the end of spring semester (my choice), and this has proven to be harder than I thought it would be. I've missed being with students and feeling like I had something to contribute there. I've missed the classroom and the preparation. I've missed my colleagues and friends. (I have NOT, for one second, missed grading papers!)

But still, I know God has called me to new adventures and new opportunities, so I trust Him to open the right doors. And to help me deal with change in my life--I really hate change!

As I look back on my year, here's what I know: that despite some difficulties and despite deep sorrow, God is still good. He is still faithful to me. He is still walking right beside me. And He loves me, no matter what my circumstances may be.


Friends, as we move into 2016, let's remember these things: God is good. He is faithful. He is always with us.

And no matter what, He loves you.

Here's to a great year ahead!