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Archive for the ‘romanticism’ Category

I remember reading the Anne of Green Gables series, how well it taught the lesson.  Anne turned down a silly farmer who asked her to marry him via his sister.  She said no to Gilbert who’d been her rival all through school.  She was disappointed when her best friend agreed to marry the ordinary local, Fred.  But maybe her friend Diana was onto something.  Maybe Anne’s tall, dark, handsome, charming ideal wasn’t what Anne really needed.  As fiction conveniently wends its way, Anne met with such a man at college.  They courted for months.  And in the final breathless moment when he asked her to be his wife, she realized that she’d been wrong.  Her girlhood husband list had been dreamy and foolish.  There was nothing so wrong with this man.  But her heart wasn’t in it.  The truth was, she had been meant for Gil all along, only her stubborn fantasies had kept her from accepting it.

Having a list seemed to help me when I was in high school.  It reminded me that love and marriage were about choice, not just feelings.  I still like my lists, even if only for self-knowledge.  In my case I was over 20 years old when I realized that a man doesn’t have to have a career plan for the rest of his life to make a good husband.  Many of the men I have ever respected (including my own dad) have been hard workers, caring for others, but trying different things, or whatever work they could find.  In a changing world, myself even desiring a bit of adventure, how could I demand stability? So my list has been modified.  As I’ve gained humility about my own certainty of how the world should be, I’ve grown a bit more relaxed about some of the things.

Never mind the unforeseen and unknown; what selfish attitude is it that tells me that I can decide what I want and demand that I get that or else?  How was that affecting my relationships with men?  Is that what marriage is about?  Is that what life is about?

I know lots of examples of people digressing from their lists as they matured:

A friend said she’d never marry someone in the military.  Then she met her husband on a military base in Japan, and she changed her mind.

Another friend said her husband would have to own a top hat.  Would she really turn down an otherwise perfect match because he didn’t own the ideal accessory?  (The answer was “no”, she wouldn’t turn him down!)

Some friends wrestled with more serious questions.  Could they marry someone who was not a virgin?  What if his views on finances (debt, saving, spending) was different from hers?  If God was calling her to ministry, could she marry someone who didn’t have that same calling?

I suppose it goes both ways.  No doubt men have their own hang-ups.  One man I know struggled because his family owned many animals and the woman he was interested in had severe allergies.  I’ve heard that many men planning to be missionaries look only for women who are pursuing the same goal.

Some of these things are generally good wisdom.  A pastor I know counsels people to marry only if they’re physically attracted to one another (successful legacy of arranged marriages notwithstanding).  I know couples who were not attracted at first, but as they proceeded with their relationships, gained such feelings.  I myself would rather not marry someone in the military because of the demands on time and loyalty.  It’s a good idea to be unified about things like money and children and ministry.  But they’re not essential.  And sometimes, especially when we’re young, we don’t know what we need.  One artist friend knew God would provide her with an artist-husband, whose soul could understand hers.  Another artist friend has been married for decades to a man who’s good with numbers instead.

Still other friends now happily married look back and think their “lists” or ideas were lacking some significant points, like respect for parents.

In our society we barely know what marriage is really about, let alone what makes for a good one.  Sometimes parents and mentors advise us.  Sometimes they’re just taking a guess and pioneering new territory they never ventured on in their own relationships. Some of it is good advice, general wisdom.  A lot of it is promoting self-interest.  Some of it is universally-useful advice about trusting God and loving others.

Are there legitimate deal-breakers?  Is it wrong to have a list of things we’re looking for?  What guiding principles are there for deciding to get married?  What is marriage?  What contributes to a good marriage?  If you choose rashly at first, is there hope for a good marriage in the end?

But the fuss we make about who to choose…

~ Miss Austen Regrets

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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Your God is Too Safe by Mark Buchanan – A well-written book about Christian living.  Dare to believe in a God who is not about rules, whose way is not comfortable or easy or popular.  Practice His presence.  Wait on Him and don’t give up, taking matters into your own hands.  It took me a while to read this book.  But every time I picked it up, it echoed the very lessons God was driving home in my lived-out life.

The Ragamuffin Gospel by Brennan Manning – All about grace.  And grace is always good.  I knew before I read it to be wary of some of Brennan Manning’s ideas, so that didn’t hang me up.  Even when I disagreed, I talked to my Jesus about it, and *that* made my week.

Jane Austen Ruined My Life by Beth Pattillo – Was not a great story, not great writing, and not a great ending.  But I read it anyway, my first venture into Austen fan-fiction.  The title was the best part.  (To be Austen purist, I am pretty sure the author mis-identifies the inhabitants of Mansfield Park.  She should have said Bertram, but she said Rushworth.)

The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoyevsky (see full review)

Castles in the Sand by Carolyn A. Greene – A novel about the subtle ways pagan spirituality and eastern mysticism are becoming accepted in evangelical Christian organizations.  Focuses on the teachings and life of Teresa of Avila.

Annotated Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen and David M. Shapard – The classic Jane Austen novel with lots of extra commentary as well as notes about history, economics, and fashion.  I liked it a lot!

Chosen by God by R.C. Sproul – Explanation of Calvinism especially versus Arminianism.  Focuses on the doctrine of predestination.

Tristan and Isolt, A Play in Verse by John Masefield – A short play telling a story of thoughtless love leading to tragedy.  What is real love?  How does Destiny figure in?

Mr. Darcy Broke My Heart by Beth Patillo – Another adventure in England with the Formidables, this time featuring a codependent heroine who has the chance to reinvent her life for a couple weeks without worrying what anyone needs her to be.  The exercise reveals her insecurity and causes her to confront her life choices.  Can a woman build a life on other people?

Green by Ted Dekker – Book 0 of the Circle Series, the beginning and end of the Thomas Hunter story.  I haven’t read any of the other books in the series, which Ted Dekker says is ok.  But it was confusing.  And I don’t think I like reading the end before the beginning.  I did like all the talk about hope.  And remembering that spiritual realities are real, even if they are unseen.

Miniatures and Morals: the Christian Novels of Jane Austen by Peter Leithart – A wonderful look at the beloved authoress’ use of satire, contrast, irony, and very good story-telling to communicate a morality originating in a deeply Christian worldview.


The Ring of Words: Tolkien and the Oxford English Dictionary by Peter Gilliver, Jeremy Marshall, and Edmund Weiner (see full review)

Why Pro-Life?  Caring for the Unborn and their Mothers by Randy Alcorn A short summary of the major points of pro-life Christianity.  Pro-life is also pro-woman.  The “choice” is a moral one.  Preborn babies are people, too.  Pro-life ministries also help women after the babies are born.

That Hideous Strength by C.S. Lewis (see full review)

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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She used to love to catch fireflies, chasing around the yard on a summer evening.  Those were the best days, the sun up so long, and even after dark you could stay outside because it was warm, buzzing with humidity.  And she would laugh to be alive, regular brown hair bobbing as she ran, transformed by the dusk into elven innocent beauty.  What could be more fetching than a girl cupping living light between her hands? 
 
But she moved away and started growing up.  She didn’t play in the mud anymore, or hold summer bugs in her palms.  Butterflies were safe to land on a nearby flower and she would only watch.  Dandelions were enemies to uproot, not fairies to set flying on the wind.  Sitting behind a desk with a computer and a cell phone now, weeks and months went by without remembering those days of childhood glory. 
 
A few quirks remained, nothing to hint to a judging world that anything of her elven self truly remained.  As the clock displayed numbers corresponding to the month and day of her birth, she celebrated.  Her clothes demonstrated an independent taste: dark earth tones punctuated every so often by a royal blue or coral.  She always had something to say for a dessert that layered chocolate.  And mythical monsters like Bigfoot and Nessie never lost their interest. 
 
Then it happened.  Enough of her stable, grown-up life fell away; just as she was ready to take a leap into a real responsibility the freedom of childhood reentered her life.  She fled to the country, to the remnants of summer twilights under the stars.  Seeds, formerly inserted in precisely dug holes round a circumscribed flower bed, flew from her hands into the fallow ground.  Rain fell and she learned to dance, not shivering from the night breeze, but turning her face towards it. 
Had she grown out of the child she had been, or had her world trapped her in a box of expectations and limited possibilities, a prison from which she had finally escaped? 
 
To God be all glory,
Lisa of Longbourn

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Marriage is like dancing with no music.  There is still an art, and still the beauty; there is also that dimension of more going on that you have in dancing.  But instead of the music being enough to give a girl an idea of where life is going, there is none; she must simply follow.  Give and take, go and come.  Trust.  Responsibility.  Cry for help.  Confidence.  Smile her delight.  Swing out, spin in.  Submit.  Dance. 
 
The hobbits watch in dreamlike fixation as a woman beautiful beyond their experience weaves her way around the table, in and out of the kitchen, gracefully dodging a man equally unique to the hobbits: big, clumpy, capering and energetic.  Styles so different, the two manage to make a fascinating dance of contrast and complement. How do they make it work?  What force prevents collision? 
 
Tom Bombadil sang about his lady when he thought no one was listening, and when he knew they were following, straining for his every word.  He praised her as beautiful and trusted her to be ready with hospitality.  Brave and free, each with few friends, the couple shared life and interests with each other.  Perhaps many nights were spent crafting a tale to spell his lady.  He gave her gifts and she did the washing.  They each remained who they had been before they met, but they sacrificed things and changed also, making a brand new life together.  When the hobbits asked Goldberry about her husband, she spoke with quiet respect, “He is the master.”  Perhaps there is no satisfying explanation of Tom Bombadil because he was a man who needed to be known rather than described.  There are no memorized steps of the dance with him.  Their house is full of the comforts of community: ready beds, generous tables, and long conversation by the fire.  Goldberry and Tom knew the value of relationship. 
 
Main characters in Lord of the Rings are unmarried.  Nine companions, the fellowship of the Ring, had the freedom to risk their lives and tramp across the world because they were not married.  A man or two was moving towards marriage, dreaming of the woman he’d left behind.  Tolkien was a real romantic, the kind who understood the pull of adventure and of chivalry, as well as of courting and of marriage.  This last is not too common in literature, that real married couples would be glimpsed in story and lifted up for their simple virtue and hard submission.  Immensely happy in marriage to Edith himself, this author did not shy away from representing marriage in his stories. 
 
Another example is found in The Fellowship of the Ring before the hobbits encounter Tom Bombadil.  Still in the Shire, they meet a hobbit couple, the honored Mrs. Maggot and her intimidating husband, Farmer Maggot.  It’s a dreadful name to inherit, let alone acquire, so Mrs. Maggot must have loved her husband, and made the most of it.  She too embodied hospitality.  Spin in.  Feeding a large working farm and family of sons and daughters, she didn’t mind at all to include three hungry strangers at her table, presenting them with heaping helpings of farm fare, mushrooms, and good homebrew.  Farmer Maggot was a good provider, a defender of his property – maybe less because of what it grew than of whom it harbored.  And when in the service of doing what was right he risked his own safety for newfound friends – this round hobbit reminiscent of the American rednecks – his wife stood at the door and cried out for her husband to be careful.  Swing out.  This isn’t just something people say.  Do you see women encouraging their husbands to do the right thing even though it is dangerous?  Do you hear people in unhappy marriages nervous about the other’s safety?  No, it comes from a heart of love, natural – yes, and common but only because the simple heart of marriage is common.  Isn’t that how it should be? 
 
There are other examples, men and women whose wedded bliss was interrupted by wars, disease, or accident.  Take Frodo’s parents.  Rumors ran wild that Drogo didn’t get along with his wife, and that she thought his girth was too large even for a hobbit.  They died together, though, out boating – and as far as the Gaffer was concerned, that was their only crime.  It left Frodo to the wildness of youth, an orphaned rascal living with an extended family too big to take good care of him and to teach him responsibility.  This again was the implication given by the sturdy gardener, who had carefully raised his own son under his eye and apprenticeship.  What an unlikely beginning for the Ringbearer, whose sense of responsibility called him into the darkness, surrendering forever the possibility of home!
 
Elrond’s marriage does not appear to have been happy.  His wife early (well, thousands of years into their relationship) grew weary of their home and left.  Why didn’t she stay for him?  Why didn’t he go with her?  Should he have gone, the Halfelven whose work was so large in preserving the Middle Earth for which his father had risked much more than happiness and comfort?  Should she have stayed, enduring without music, just for the following?
 
Many characters seem to have lost their mothers or fathers early, including Samwise, Frodo, Aragorn, Boromir & Faramir, and Eowyn & Eomer.  It was a hard time, and even marriage did not guard against sorrow and loss.  This is evidence that Tolkien’s ideal of marriage was not unrelated to the real world in which he moved.  His stories exemplify love and commitment in the midst of the hard times to which we can relate. 
 
Another splendid example of the exertions of marital love and the roles each person takes is the marriage of Earendil and Elwing.  Earendil, on behalf of his people, sought to reach the undying lands and plead for the help of the Valar.  He was lost at sea, hopeless, when his elven wife flew to him in the form of a white bird with a silmaril at her breast, and, lighting the way to Valinor, saved her husband and delivered his mission from doom.  He initiated risk, and she accepted the separation and the danger.  In this story the husband led the way on a mission to save the world (as all husbands should), and she supported him with strength of her own and encouragement.  I believe the story goes that the couple now above Middle Earth sails till time ends, in the heavens, her silmaril doomed to light the way for all men as the evening star. 
 
Many people in Tolkien’s tales are related to Luthien and Beren, who stole that silmaril from the crown of Morgoth.  Luthien was the daughter of Thingol (a high elf, one of the first to see Valinor) and Melian (a Maia).  Their marriage is another inspiration.  King Thingol loved Melian and worked his whole life to make her happy.  But he also respected his bride and took her advice.  This position Melian wielded to moderate her husband’s temper, thereby making him the best man, father, and king that he could be.  Ruling together, they preserved and protected a kingdom of peace, beauty, and, until fate started to unravel the spell of protection Melian had woven around Doriath, of justice. 
 
Thingol and Melian’s marriage is somewhat reminiscent of Celeborn and Galadriel, both strong and wise, with strong claims to the leadership of their people.  Yet they ruled peacefully side by side, together attending councils of the wise.  Again they both offer hospitality, but are cautious to protect their country against harm, for love both of land and of friends inside.  All the wives in Tolkien are beautiful, and all the husbands are valiant.  But not all the men are wise, nor are all women hospitable.  Celeborn and Galadriel represent together the best of Tolkien’s ideal.  They are happy and sad, serious and celebratory.  They are wise and strong, beautiful and kind.  People love them and follow them, not only in war, but also in peace.  Memory is important, and yet there is always curiosity to meet new things.  And so it ought to be in marriage.  Such I believe was Tolkien’s experience. 
 
My favorite marriage in Tolkien is one that hadn’t yet taken place.  Eowyn was independent; she was not free – not because she was a woman at home, but because she wanted things impossible for her to have.  Faramir pushed, and she took a small step away.  He pulled and she came close.  Before she knew what was happening, the simple steps were increasing in difficulty until she cried out, “My hand is ungentle!”  The princess grew frightened in the face of love and submission, though she had stood proud as the shieldmaiden of her king even against an enemy as terrible as the Lord of the Nazgul.  She cried out to one who seemed to know what he was doing, who was leading her into a place where she was less confident, where her only choice was to follow.  And the crying out was trust.  Her heart changed, or at last she understood it.  She chose freedom, stepped willingly away from her independence, and chose to love, like her partner, to see things grow well.  “Then I will wed with the White Lady,” he laughed.  She smiled her delight, and on the wall of the city their hands met and clasped, and they faced darkness and light together. 
 
To God be all glory,
Lisa of Longbourn 

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I remember the time when I liked a red coat myself very well — and indeed, so I do still at my heart…” – Mrs. Bennet of Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
 
Women have always had a thing for men in uniform, whether it was the shining armor that bespoke defense against dragons and pagan armies, or the clean, gloved dress blues of the United States Navy today. 
 
On the radio this week I heard an interview by Dennis Prager of Allison Armstrong.  This woman has a book and website about “understanding men,” and being a woman, she is obviously comparing them to females so that women, knowing themselves, may appreciate the men in their lives.  One thing she said about women is that what they need from a man is security.  While few professions are more dangerous and truly insecure than defense, I argue that a woman feels more secure when she is with a man in uniform. 
 
So it might seem strange that nearly every girl dreams of being a princess.  She wants to be beautiful and important, and to have that prince at her side who will dance her into the sweet sunset.  Nevertheless, a man is created to lead.  Prince, being part of the hierarchy in a system of monarchy, is the romantic personification of authority.  He has a kingdom at his fingertips.  His people look up to and respect him.  What woman would not want to be at the side of such a man?  For women crave that figure in their lives that gives them direction. 
 
In the old chivalric code, a knight seldom wed with the lady to whom he dedicated his conquests.  The woman might be of a social position out of reach, or she may demonstrate the good sense that so few women are able to carry out: not joining her life with that of a man whose every day is violent risk of life.  In other places I have addressed this romantic moral. 
 
So here is my principle of Knights and Princes.  When a girl or woman is rescued by a gallant man, be it from certain death, the humiliation of carrying something too heavy for her, or the common courtesy of having doors opened on her behalf, if that man is a stranger, or a brother, or a mere friend, he is a Knight, honored by all, a man who stands ready to serve and defend wherever the need is presented.  (Though less relevant to my thesis, I will here add that her father, should he so deliver the maiden, is doing is high and worthy job as Guardian, Defender of the Realm.)  And if he is husband or fiancé performing the deed, I name him Prince.  A true lady would never call a mere knight her prince, or think of him as such, lest she be claiming another princess’ Prince. 
 
Knights have arisen in my life this week, blessing me and coming to my aid: a neighbor of a friend relieving me from shoveling snow in 20-degree weather, a friend carrying a sign too heavy for me, a boy from church holding a door, and my brother working in my place voluntarily on this my birthday.  I hereby dub them Knights. 
 
To God be all glory,
Lisa of Longbourn

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My favorite part of the movie was when a friend, a married woman came up to Jane and told her that many women needed the encouragement that Jane Austen’s books offered.  Their love wasn’t perfectly romantic anymore, but they could read books.  (Lisa insert: maybe the books inspired the women to have a balanced view of love and marriage, or a value and lightheartedness for the friends and family and husbands and wives that they had.)  The woman went on to say that God had given Jane Austen her gift for writing so that she could be such an important encouragement in the world – even if it meant that Jane couldn’t be married.  That way she could still impart her gifts to the world.  Jane’s life had meaning and purpose. 
 
With all the happily ever afters we all love in Jane Austen’s novels, it is encouraging for single girls to occasionally hear a story where the girl doesn’t end up with the handsome prince, but her life was still good and worth something.  Don’t worry; I know my life means something.  It is just nice to hear the stories, to see an unmarried life in a romanticist-inspired light. 
 
To God be all glory,
Lisa of Longbourn

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Impossible that it’s ten o’clock.  April is poetry month, so I’m told.  Happily I already celebrated unknowingly by spending time with some friends passing Longfellow back and forth.  Our favorite was either “Maidenhood” or “The Village Blacksmith.”  When I was in school my mom/teacher made me write poems.  On demand.  Come on!  Inspiration does not come at my beckoning.  And how often do I feel inspired without any words to express the perfectly poetic sentiment of my day?  I think that’s what I mean by “romanticism.”  Anyway, I did so want to write a poem for my sentiments, and it is poetry month, so I gave myself the assignment and resorted to the means I used to complete my high school English assignments: list what strikes you as poetic about your thoughts today, and form them into some sort of verse.  Except they used to rhyme.  So ignore my ridiculous form.  And forgive the fact that the strongest point of my poetry is using words with precision, but not so much creativity or parallel. 
 
Friday afternoon, mind swimming with Synonyms
For diligence and self control, perseverance and temperance
I’d rather think of poetry, of rain and wind and crashing seas
Scottish shores and Celtic tunes, flutes and violins wailing. 
 
Sitting to think and compose and to focus,
I lie back against the pillow on my bed,
Fully awake, I let my eyes close
Mysteriously, just being, with a hand above my head. 
 
Missing my friends, strange loneliness dull
As the soft throb of my heart behind
High, keen thrills of longing and wishing
Ready for a change and afraid of what it might be
 
Needing one to excite me, to share
The passion of a poem, a truth, or a care
Tears are more fitting for the sorrow of life
And days still come with love and laughter
 
Sisters eating cookies together, not looking at each other
Barely talking, but just being
Existing, Individuals not stories
Being personal and together
 
Books are exciting, words speak for themselves
Metaphors alternately dry or compelling
History the truest voice into my need
Casually combines love, war, and theology. 
 
 
That’s it.  Are you a real poet?  What do you have to share? 
 
Oh, by the way – I found this real sonnet by an authentic poet, and I bookmarked it on del.icio.us today.  
 
To God be all glory,
Lisa of Longbourn

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There is a popular marriage book called Love and Respect.  All my dear married friends talk about the subject.  Women need love.  Men need respect.  Respect is more than words.  A wife wants to hear her husband say “I love you,” (and men don’t mind hearing their wives say it, I suspect).  She also needs his love to be demonstrated.  Likewise respect must be lived out. 

Respect is an attitude.  It’s how a woman talks about a man, or her attitude when he’s talking to her.  Things she refrains from saying or doing can be as important to demonstrating respect as what she says.  Even when he isn’t there, a wife can respect her husband by the things she tells about him and the way she tells them to her girlfriends or children.  Respect is important to a man, just like being cherished is important to a woman. 

For example, a counselor (author of the book?) once heard a wife tell him that she loved her husband, but couldn’t respect him.  He reversed the question and asked how she would feel if her husband confessed that he respects her, but just doesn’t love her.  Obviously she would be devastated.  The implication is that a man is equally devastated to hear that his wife doesn’t respect him. 

Yet our society considers love a prerequisite for marriage, and so judges a man who doesn’t love his wife.  Respect is often something a wife never considered.  She didn’t know she was failing.  She thought she was respectful, taking literally the phrase, “all due respect.”  If her husband was communicative, he may have mentioned his desire for respect, at which point she got defensive, and considered him most unfair.  If he wanted respect, maybe he married the wrong woman.  After all, he is the same man who (insert ridiculous quirk or character flaw here). 

What does a wife do if she cannot respect the man because he is not respectable?  There are many testimonies to the change wrought in a man, even after years of marriage, when a woman chooses to respect him.  Picking the things that are admirable in his character, she praised that to him and to others.  She prioritized her life around the things that were important to him.  In Wives and Daughters, the soon to be Mrs. Gibson asks Molly to tell her all her father’s little likes and dislikes, so that she can be a pleasing wife.  The first thing Molly tells her, however, is something that Mrs. Gibson sets out to “cure.”  Her behavior did not show respect.  The villain in Wives and Daughters, a very human and almost pitiable Mr. Preston, is by no means a respectable man, but Molly appeals to him as though he were, and goads him on to more honorable behavior. 

I think this dilemma of being married to a man you don’t respect is a symptom of our dating culture.  Our paths to marriage have been all about falling in love.  How many girls fall in love with someone and feel like the dad on Stepmom, that marriage is the next step?  The hurting son in the movie asks his dad if, since a husband and wife can ‘fall out of love,’ can a parent can fall out of love with his kids?  Love is a choice.  I believe that, and think the dad was wrong to divorce his wife. 

What if he had “fallen” in respect with his wife?  Think of a man sitting in a field plucking petals: she respects me, she respects me not…  However, respect is more obviously a choice. 

Our modernized fairy tales are full of falling in love.  I’m a romantic, and I appreciate Disney’s animated fairy tales.  But don’t they have more resemblance to Sir Walter Scott than to Grimm’s?  Think about the original versions of fairy tales you know. 

Take Sleeping Beauty.  A man risks everything for her, and she without even really knowing him delights to be his bride.  Why? 

Cinderella knows the prince’s character, and they share a romantic enchantment for a few hours one night before he scours the kingdom to claim her.  Aside from the obvious appeal of a maid marrying a prince, why would she do that?  If she were a romantic, would an evening’s dance be sufficient? 

Beauty – is she won over by the love of the Beast in the original tale?  What about Snow White – seemingly romantic, singing someday my prince will come – ultimately married to a man whose fascination with her beauty jolts her into life again – literally. 

Snow White and Rose Red is perhaps the most romantic fairy tale, its hero repeating the plea, “Snow White, Rose Red! Will you beat your lover dead?”  Even in that story the chosen bride is not apparent, and the second sister is married to the hero’s previously unmentioned brother. 

Yet the hype of every movie and story popular today is falling in love or the misery in marriage if you don’t. 

In fact respect before marriage is a concept often trampled by the rush to feed and give in to love.  Instead, respect marriage and respect the other person.  Value them more than the relationship, more than the attraction.  Purity, modesty, submission, counsel, and a long-term focus are ways to express respect for each other before marriage.  They are also characteristic of the courtship movement.  (Allow me to interject that as I thought about this topic, I followed it to this place; this is not designed as a defense of courtship.) 

Whereas the dating culture is all about flowers, butterflies, and the kiss that tells you he’s the one; courtship has a focus on boundaries, on matching emotion and expression to the level of commitment.  And I suppose that’s all I really want out of calling a relationship a courtship: not a strict set of rules and prohibitive encounters, but intentionality in building respect even as you grow in love.  The idea is not only to more accurately find a spouse with less regrets (at giving away your heart or more), but to prepare for married life. 

“Intentional” could speak to the willful direction of a relationship.  Historically, a suitor came to the father (and thereby to the lady) to make his intentions known.  That factor alone could make a world of difference in dating relationships.  If each would regularly express their intentions for the relationship, or at least begin by honestly telling each other what the goal is, dating would be less complicated and harmful. 

Being intentional in either aspect, and preparing for marriage, could explain the tendencies to short courtships.  Practicing love, respect, submission, confidence, and preference is hard to do without wanting to move right into the real deal.  Or courtships could be short because they’re begun only after at least one party is willing to consider marriage.  Part of the important observation and decision-making is done before the first date. 

Coincidentally, I think that “respect” is the less hated buzz-word translating the Greek hupotasso, usually translated in the Bible as “submit” or “be obedient.”  In Ephesians 5, women were not told to make sure they didn’t usurp their husbands any more than the men were forbidden from hating their wives.  Love is a positive thing.  Women should embrace submission.  All along the Bible has had the instructions for successful marriages. 

Colossians 3:18, “Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as it is fit in the Lord.”

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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I asked a while back what was the truest expression of love.  Fiction and stories have always served to teach me.  They make me think, and ponder scenarios beyond my experience.  When I don’t have a book that perfectly suits a question I’m considering, I (sometimes consciously) devise a story of my own.  That is the setting for the question I asked. 

My initial scenario was a man and woman in love under oppressive circumstances who had several options: 1.  Part and give each other up.  2.  Part promising to be faithfully and exclusively devoted to one another despite separation.  3.  Marry and face permanent endangerment or death as a result.  So the questions are: 1.  Is it better to sacrifice and let each other possibly find love elsewhere?  2.  Is it more faithful to the feelings and nature of love to continue feeling for each other when all chance of enactment is past?  3.  Is consummation so important to love that you would risk each other? 

Suppose you’re in A Walk to Remember.  Do you marry when your marriage is guaranteed to be short-lived?  What if you’re in Pirates of the Caribbean?  Do you marry if you know (which was, I allow, not the case in the movie) that the relationship will consist of one day in 3652?  You’re a mother in Nazi Germany who has a chance of sending her children away to safety, but she’ll never see them again.  (supplied by my mom): Or should missionary parents endanger their kids by discipling them at home or protect them by sending them to boarding school?  Then again, is life and safety more important than a relationship with your parents? 

Michael Card wrote “God’s only way is to give and to die.”  I wasn’t only asking about romantic love.  But I confess I’ve always got that under consideration, being interested in the subject.  Seriously, I can see the usefulness of reading all the relationship books.  Aside from personal application, I believe such subjects are fundamental points in the development of one’s relationship with God and others.  Plus it’s Valentine’s Day, so I have an excuse – for today. 

Gratification is doing whatever the feelings of love motivate you to do in a moment.  This promises the most instant satisfaction, but it might be deceptive.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve felt like hugging someone and decided I couldn’t, or shouldn’t, or more deeply would rather not. 

Consumation would be a more long-term, planned and waited for climax of a relationship.  It doesn’t necessarily indicate commitment, but it is a fulfillment of something hoped and worked for.  What is the consummate activity of friendship, or of parenting?  For some friends it might be meeting, or reading journals or going on a trip together.  In Butterfly Kisses, Bob Carlisle indicates that the peak of parenting is when his daughter is given away in marriage.  Consumation might be understood as the “truest expression of love” by definition.  It might be too specific, though.  Let’s keep exploring. 

Commitment is, in this case, synonymous with faithfulness and loyalty.  True love inspires commitment.  There’s no greater gift to offer a person than your eternal devotion.  Then again, what if the love is unrequited?  What if there is eternal separation to match the eternal commitment?  Then the commitment doesn’t mean anything. 

Sacrifice.  Obviously there are different levels of sacrifice.  A guy who sees a romantic comedy instead of the latest Will Smith alien movie is being sacrificial (generally speaking), but that is not the truest expression of love.  Maybe a bunch of little things all added together are the kind of sacrifice I mean.  There isn’t opportunity for each of us to die for another to demonstrate our love.  Romans 12:1 talks about being a living sacrifice, which is totally giving one’s heart, soul, mind, and strength to the purposes and good of another.  Or maybe sacrifice is the answer in some instances and not others. 

As I think about this, I remember love languages.  I don’t even know what they all are.  There is giving and touch, probably words, and maybe service.  I’m still missing one.  Anyway, this side of the argument points out that the motive is important, not the expression. 

My mom kept saying “it depends” when I asked her this question.  I wasn’t asking what was right or wrong, or the choice that should be made in a given circumstance.  Perhaps my point is to show how those things can conflict with expressing love.  Am I wrong?  After all, God is love. Ought love to be the ultimate consideration?  When faced with a choice between improving a relationship and improving the other person (making them good-er) in your relationship, which claim is superior? 

I could invite a friend to ice cream because I want to build our relationship, and spending time is a good way to brick our relationship.  Or it could be because I know they like ice cream and I want to brick them.  Or I could be bricking myself because I like ice cream.  So which is more important?  Which is love? 

There I go again.  I can’t blog without asking questions.  But to answer my original survey, if I were taking a test, I’d pick sacrifice.  I can refute the others (to my own satisfaction, but I can’t necessarily prove my case). 

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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One can read over the brim of one’s cup, just as Treebeard the Ent studied Merry and Pippin in his mountain home over his entdraught in Middle Earth long ago.  Such was I doing when I stopped thinking about the words and became more attentive to the taste in my cup.  I was drinking a vanilla chai tea latte, hot, and slightly watered down due to my lack of tablespoon at work.  The flavor is one of the new things introduced to my life in a year that is rapidly flowing to its end.  I like it. 

 

But I miss hot chocolate.  Not that I never drink chocolate anymore.  That I drink chai tea when I would have been sipping cocoa is undeniable.  Life has changed.  My tastes have dutifully broadened as an expected part of growing up.  If they are broadened, they are also dispersed.  Now the intensity of my appreciation for chocolate is tempered by my acceptance of vanilla chai tea. 

 

Would my life be better if I had refused to taste chai tea?  If through loyalty I remained zealous for chocolate alone, could I still be a grown up and still be happy?  Would I be happier? 

 

Life is a choice whether to try new things.  Once surrendered to a new pet topic, to the diminution of my former sole passion, my experience says there is no possibility of returning to a single-passion life.  A new opportunity arises, and if I am consistent, is tried.  Causes ebb and flow, wax and wane now, each replacing the last for its moment in the spotlight. 

 

I haven’t really written anything in a while.  Inspiration departed.  Whenever that happens I get borderline depressed, because life seems to have lost its flavor, and my passion for each moment has waned.  I don’t like drifting, shallow waves of life lapping around an unresponsive me.  Leaving the metaphor, though, I keep on doing things: going to work, talking to people, checking email.  Even genuine smiles come to my face. 

 

Now, slowly, I think I’m coming out of my doldrums.  A week ago Saturday night, I completely spontaneously saw a movie, August Rush.  There were so few people in the theater, and I was so tired.  Reclined in my seat, I tilted my head against the back of the cushion, and absorbed a beautiful movie.  The soundtrack was uniquely expressive, imposing its presence and importance.  Music spoke in the movie.  It communicated identity, feelings, direction, summons, friendship, longings, and fulfillment. 

 

Afterward I escaped the scent of popcorn into a fresh midnight wind.  The air was too cold to linger, but I breathed it deeply, and memorized its touch on my face.  I felt the cold and the current.  My brother and I talked of how we love things and moments with feeling, and flavor.  They say something, and mean something. 

 

In contrast, the chocolate cake I had just before the movie was bland.  The color boasted bursting flavor, when in actuality the taste was dull and muted.  Not like fudge, or cinnamon, or grape juice.  Those things are so bursting with flavor that they assert their identities. 

 

Then a few days later was a day full of feeling, and a sense of doing things important, though everyday.  I cried near the end, for a few friends came home.  Tears break the walls of the world without passion.  That’s the metaphor of George MacDonald’s Princess Lightness. 

 

Yet when the walls are down, and I care about what happens around me, when I’m advancing my might on causes and people, there’s the probability that I’ll see the world in reality, and see myself as I am.  Couple this to just turning 23, to holidays and old friends, and I am sad now – not depressed, but sad in a sentimental way, in a fightable way. 

 

Sunday I went to Red Robin alone.  They offered me a free burger for my birthday in exchange for receiving their emails, so I went to redeem my coupon.  The staff was nice.  I brought a book about grace.  And in between sips of a chocolate shake and bites of luscious burger, I observed.  The walls caught my attention, bearing an eclectic collection of posters, prints, and photographs.  One fantastic picture showed downtown Chicago along the Chicago River in 1929.  Already the concentration of sky-piercing towers was a marvel.  Chicago is my favorite city.  I can’t lay my finger on the reason, only that when I am there I feel alive.  Every place is a story; every sound has a flavor; and every person has a style. 

 

I love Christmas for the same reason.  Each song is a tale, each note a rush of emotion.  Every light twinkles mystery into my soul.  Altered from its original intent or not, in December the whole country is united in focus.  No one asks why the stores all play music about snow, bells, peace, and Jesus.  It is understood when you wear red that you’re being festive.  Even those who have dropped out of church make it back for the memories of candlelight at Christmas Eve services. 

 

So today, especially at Christmas, I want to challenge you to seize the day.  Breathe the moment.  Live to the hilt.  Pursue life.  Feed on truth.  Praise beauty.  Remember.  Cry.  Hope.  Laugh.  Sing.  Love. 

 

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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