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Posts Tagged ‘romance’

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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There is something blissful about finishing a good book.  It makes me want to stand by an open upstairs window in spring, or find a well-cushioned corner of a cozy room, or to make cookies.  Many good books leave one wishing the story continued.  But a really great book finishes with a satisfying sense of closure and promise, as though the story did go on, exactly as you would wish it would, only I don’t need to know the details.  And then I am lonely, but not for another book; for people – and not to share thoughts or to retell the plot in a silly, useless way, but just to be unalone.

That Hideous Strength is a love story.  And it is a story of the beloved very much in danger.  CS Lewis writes of the lovers meeting difference – things other than self – and either fighting them, dominating them, hiding from them, or giving them a sort of worship.  That’s what the whole story is about, whether you’re talking about Mark or Jane or Ransom or Mother Dimble or Wither or Frost or Merlin or mankind or God.

The tale of the N.I.C.E. and Logres’ simple war against it describes what you get when you reject reality.  In reality, even a person’s own identity is rather different from how one perceives it.  He is meant not for what he wishes himself to be, but for what the world needs him to be.  There is humility and obedience and purpose and harmony set up against pride and selfishness and destruction and nonsense.  People who reject truth find that they are lied to.  And in the end, the lie is stripped bare, and each person makes the choice of loyalty, not really dependent on which side is winning at all.  Every man and woman decides whether to sink with the ship that stands for the elimination of mankind or to risk fighting on the side of the good guys even when the bad guys look terribly strong.

Is it such a little thing, to be a self-important College Fellow arranging the affairs of colleagues as one wishes?  What epics of the world stand or fall on whether a woman loves her husband?  Is weather good (delightful) no matter what its form?  How is it so fitting to keep a garden, to marry, and to beget children?

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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I was watching the very old Star Trek last night, just because it was on. Always the shows frustrate me, and I’m not even talking about plaster acting and cardboard sets. The worldview even the heroes in the series live by is so sad.

In this episode, Captain Kirk somehow got stranded on a planet being threatened by an asteroid, except that was a few months out, and he got amnesia and thought he was what the people called him, a god. Or at least he played along. He didn’t even tell the woman he met (there are always women wherever Kirk goes) that he had doubts about being a god. The two fell in love, I suppose is what they would call it, and actually got married (this is quite rare in Star Trek, but obviously dooms the mere guest star character to death). There was never another woman in his life, swore the amnesiac Captain. And the audience rolls their eyes. Are you kidding?

In a pre-wedding fight to win his bride, the hero of the Enterprise is cut and bleeds. His opponent recites a TV myth, that gods don’t bleed. Whose idea was that, anyway, and what was their agenda? Because the true God did bleed. He planned to be slain from the foundation of the world. And almost immediately after the sin that caused the bloodshed of God, the Creator prophesied that the Serpent would bruise the heel of the Seed of the Woman. All along man ought to have known that God would bleed.

Moving on, during the months of marriage on the alien planet, Kirk keeps saying in a dreamy voice, “I’m so happy.” And almost all of these confessions are followed by kisses of his bride. Really? Happiness consists of kisses and shallow romance? For there didn’t seem to be anything else to their relationship.

Love and marriage were much cheapened by the episode, in which the writers and director could find no other way to express affection than the physical and erotic. Happiness, too, was cheapened, but it proved short-lived, having no foundation. I’m sure that as originally aired, the very next episode showed a confident-as-ever Captain Kirk, zooming about the universe looking for more beautiful girls with whom to be temporarily happy in an imaginary life lasting minutes, days, or months. He always seems to have amnesia.

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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During Jane Austen Season on Masterpiece Theater this winter I decided to skip hassling my parents to record on the week when the biopic Miss Austen Regrets was on.  If it was like any other biography, it would be very dull.  If it was like the other movies, it would be very silly.  If it was like Becoming Jane, it would be annoying.  Unfortunately, as soon as my chances of viewing it were past, all the Austen fan sites came alive with gentle praise for the movie, and I regretted missing it. 
 
Finally the copy of Sense and Sensibility came from the library, its featured chapter being the hour and a half long Miss Austen Regrets, a wonderful film (immodest women, if that bothers you, which it does me – no brothers allowed) about Jane Austen’s views on love and marriage, mostly centering on her advice to Fanny, her niece.  It made me think.  I watched it on my anniversary, actually, and at first I thought it was rather the wrong choice for that, but then it was such a message of trusting God to do with your life what He wills, even if it isn’t marriage – but retaining a high value of marriage that I am reconciled to the decision. 
 
Not being a scholar of Jane Austen’s life, I am without criticism of the movie’s portrayal of her timeline, words, and actions.  I never thought of her as being so flirtatious, but that is because I prefer, like Elizabeth Bennett, to imagine that the people I admire share my values and convictions and that their faults, which all people must be admitted to have, are never those which expose a good understanding to ridicule.  I enjoyed the movie very much, especially the parts where Jane was writing Persuasion.  The makers of this movie, at least, understood that story. 
 
Cassandra’s relationship with her beloved witty sister the author is a fascination to me, and I am always willing to know more of it.  One thing brought up by the movie, however, was her brothers.  Jane Austen (and Cassandra, of course) had six brothers who played important roles in their lives.  Yet the only book Jane wrote where there was any substantial brother role was Mansfield Park, and though his character moves the story when it appears, and though he is dear and inspiring to his sister Fanny, he is really not all that central to the plot.  So I wondered why Jane Austen so rarely wrote about what she knew so well: the relationship of brothers and sisters. 
 
Do you ever wonder if Jane wrote Pride and Prejudice about herself and Cassandra – and her namesake was really the better representation?  Oh, I suppose outspoken and satirical Jane could never be the quiet and tender Miss Bennett.  Perhaps she really would have preferred marriage to Mr. Bingley for herself, though.  I agree with Miss Austen Regrets, that Mr. Darcy would not have done for Jane Austen (just as I imagine he would not have done for me, though like all good fans, I adore him). 
 
So now I’m back to reading the Annotated Pride and Prejudice, reveling actually in the comparative necessary openness of the written story as opposed to the famed 1995 Pride and Prejudice that got to so subtly show the change in the hero and heroine.  It is so relaxing to ponder what one reads, if it is a good piece of literature.  And who that has read Pride and Prejudice could argue that point? 
 
To God be all glory,
Lisa of Longbourn

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I finished a couple books that I haven’t reviewed yet.  One was by G.K. Chesterton, a genius who despised Protestants without ever really disagreeing with them.  Ok, but that’s not why I was reading him.  He wrote about marriage, home, and family, with great common sense.  Sometimes we say insight, and we mean something little.  I want to say prophetic in that intangible, surreal sense, but that’s strange.  He got into an issue and saw outside of it so that he could make points that should be so obvious, but none of the rest of us could see because we were busy arguing the points the wrong people were making to distract us from our strongest case.  So that was good, and beautiful, and challenging. 
 
Side note here to transition into the next book review.  I love reading books because they inspire me, make me think, or challenge me.  Books, unlike the majority of people I know, will tell me what I’m doing wrong and what I ought to do.  This is why I read books about relationships.  Maybe I’ll be burned by thinking I have all the answers, but in the mean time it makes me want to live a life preparing for the ideal romance and marriage – if I could just figure out what ideal was.  And for the moment, I have no firm idea of what an ideal man looks like to me either.  I think I have to meet him.  It’s like The Witch of Blackbird Pond says: Kit had to stop planning and start waiting.  The reason was, she would find out, a lot of these details are not a lady’s to figure, but the gentleman’s.  Letting other people make the decisions when they affect you is hard, but relaxing.  I did a lot of that this week. 
 
So I did just finish The Witch of Blackbird Pond, making a whole two books I’ve read with “Witch” in the title.  The first was The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, a book that my mom probably first read to me, and then I read it.  When your mom gives you a book as a kid, you think there could be nothing wrong with it.  That’s a good reason for rereading books when you’re smarter.  (So many people like CS Lewis, but his theology wasn’t always biblical; he never bothered to study the Bible, I think.)  Anyway, I would never have picked up this book either, but for a friend recommending it and saying how real the characters were.  It came from my library’s young adult section, which I think is sad because adults are not encouraged to read these really good books that would do them more good than they do kids.  It was short, though, so it would have looked strange next to the three hundred page hardbacks in the adult section. 
 
I’d say the book is about making choices, and the freedom that comes from doing the right thing even when you don’t understand what’s going on.  And it has to do with contentment and waiting and hard work.  I see my friend, who recommended the book, in the pages.  It’s the kind of thing she would like and live – and the kind of thing I would like and try to live. 
 
So some people think I’m perfect.  I don’t know what I have to do to convince them I’m not.  What’s more, they think I’ll despise them for their weaknesses or desires.  All my life I’ve determined not to forget who I was and what it was like to be younger.  For example, I remember how very serious everything was in my life, and how sure I was of my ideas, and even now it isn’t so much that I was wrong as that I didn’t see the whole picture.  I desperately wanted someone to help me out with the big picture, but I guess not enough because I wouldn’t ask anyone.  This to say that I wanted to remember feeling those things so that I could relate to young people.  And I never wondered how I would clue kids in that I knew: that I hadn’t forgotten, that even though I’m not entirely normal, I had some of the universal experiences. 
 
I think of some of my friends not so much as perfect, but as good.  They love Jesus and they are willing to make right choices – the kind that don’t radically mess up their lives – but they struggle with the choices, and sometimes fail.  My friend who likes Blackbird Pond is one of those.  And now that I think about it, that’s probably one of the things I’m looking for in the man I’ll marry: that he’ll be good (but as Anne says, with the capability of wickedness which he denies) but struggle, and sometimes fail.  I’ve never loved a person before I knew some of their faults.  Weird, huh? 
 
So even novels I read, even the romantic ones that send me to long drives talking to God about waiting and “Where is he?” – are challenging.  Because The Witch of Blackbird Pond was about waiting and serving and looking at what is and what I can do instead of what might be or isn’t and what I can’t do (yet), and because it came packaged in a daydreamy story, I’m inspired.  Now if only I wasn’t so exhausted from a trip across two time zones… 
 
And the number one question on my mind is what to read next.  Seriously, I have a stack.  But I didn’t have to tell you that again, did I? 
 
Hey – in case you’re one of those people who thinks I’m perfect, I’m going to confess.  Maybe I should have confession Fridays or something.  = )  How’s that for a blog series?  Anyway, we were at the beach and I was feeling dreadful, but our group was taking pictures, and as I threw down my hat and jacket on the sand, I exclaimed that I had no idea how I looked, and asked a dear friend if I looked beautiful.  The other night she’d told me I did when I, a reflection recently refreshed in my memory, did not think so.  But honestly.  How immodest.  To beg for flattery even just privately from her would have been wrong.  In front of everyone?  Arg.  Not perfect.  Proud.  Vain.  Immodest.  Quick-tongued.  Self-focused.  Didn’t do personal devotions all week either.  I thought it was ok, and it was in an anti-legalist sense, but I think it would have helped to hear from Jesus. 
 
To God be all glory,
Lisa of Longbourn

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I love Enchanted.  I like the subtle spoof it is on earlier Disney movies (even Lady and the Tramp!).  The music is fun, and I like the premise “What if the heroes and heroines of Disney Fairyland were in the real world?”  Everyone told me before I saw it that it was a funny movie, but I think it is romantic.  Plus philosophically I see a lot of good messages, for a change, on love and marriage.  By way of disclaimer, before I enumerate my appreciation for Disney’s new take on romance, I thought I’d tell you the 5 things I really didn’t like about Enchanted. 

 Oh, uh, Spoiler Alert.  Obviously.   

Enchanted’s weaknesses:

1.  Giselle’s clothes aren’t modest.  The situation with the shower is less modest, as conduct and visually.  At one point she puts her hand very unnecessarily on Robert’s chest.

 

2.  A tiny bit of crass humor and adult insinuation (of the kind that kids can rationalize as meaningless).

 

3.  The evil in the movie is scary and occult, using spells, fire, smoke, dragons, and old hags. 

 

4.  Morgan uses her dad’s emergency credit card for a shopping trip. 

 

5.  Robert, who has invested in a 5 year relationship with Nancy and was intending to propose, abandons her (with her permission) for a woman he was basically falling in love with while still giving her the impression he intended to marry Nancy.  Giselle was set to marry Prince Edward, and promises him she will return to Andalasia though she is having doubts.  She, of course, ends up trading him for the New York lawyer.  Robert puts himself in a tempting situation by taking Giselle for a walk, a boat ride, a carriage ride, and pizza; finally he dances with her.  There’s an issue of faithfulness and honesty here. 

 

Enchanted on Marriage:

1.  Dreaming

Giselle starts by dreaming of her prince.  She has an ideal of simple romance, handsome, present, and royal.  It makes her sing, gives her something to talk about, and gets her through lonely days in the forest.  Her perspective nearly gets her into a marriage that, the day after happily ever after, isn’t going to be much of anything. 

 2.  Kissing

In Enchanted, kissing is the activity of marriage or those who will be married.  It is symbolic of permanence and commitment.  Near the beginning of the first song, Giselle sings that “before two can become one, there’s something you must do.”  This is an allusion to the story in Genesis, Jesus’ words, and Paul’s quotation – in the Bible!  Compared to most movies, or even Disney movies, Marriage is given high priority. 

 3.  It’s You Duet

Because of Giselle’s shallow perspective on true love, when Prince Edward rescues her singing on his horse, she immediately assumes he’s the one.  He also looks like the statue she made based on her dream.  With little explanation, the Prince, who already heard her song, decides they’re made for each other (note the predestination) and should get married in the morning. 

 4.  “Strengths and Weaknesses”

Robert and Nancy’s take on marriage is slow, thoughtful, and calm.  They’ve analyzed each other, have a functional relationship, and think they’re ready to take the next step.  He does seem to care whether they break up.  She trusts him.  But they each value things that the other does not represent for them: romance, emotion, and fun, for example. 

 5.  Separating Forever and Ever

Robert is a divorce lawyer, bummer of a job for a movie about happily ever after.  But he’s put out of a job by Giselle’s entrance.  Separating forever and ever is a terribly sad thing, she cries.  She reminds a couple contemplating divorce that there are attributes of their spouse that they value and won’t find anywhere else.  They hold each other’s hearts, and that brings responsibility. 

 6.  Dating

Dating is getting to know someone before you marry them.  It usually involves a nice activity like dinner out or a movie or museum.  You exchange information on your interests.  It is good to note that Robert and Giselle come from opposite perspectives, each teach each other something, and meet in the blissful middle.  Robert says most normal people date.  I suppose that’s true.  And if by date you really mean know them before you marry them, I’m ok with that.  Courtship and friendship pre-wedding would fall under this category for the purposes of the movie. 

 7.  “I Always Treated Her Like a Queen”

True love is not about manipulation or exchanging favors.  Love does not worship the other person in a way that denies truth.  A person must offer him or her self in love, not some trampled pantomime of what the other person wants.  Honesty and sincerity are important. 

 8.  “I Will Save You”

True love isn’t the only kind.  Enchanted portrays the love of friends and children as equally valuable.  Marriage isn’t this self-contained, self-sustaining relationship that comprises one’s whole world.  It is meant to be in community and to create additional community.  Chip is a faithful friend to Giselle, relentlessly risking his life to save her.  Her prince actually shows a great deal of chivalry in going after her despite no real interest in her as a person.  And Morgan’s relationship as a step-daughter is an important measuring stick of Giselle’s right-ness for Robert.  Morgan is part of the picture, and her needs are valued. 

 9.  Pain, Risk, Good Times with the Bad

At a later scene, the couple once pondering divorce is happily reunited, willing to work through their problems.  Reality has its problems, but that doesn’t mean you give up.  Reality is worth sticking around for.  This is a theme that will resonate with both Robert and Giselle.  Robert got burnt by his first marriage, and is leery of emotional investment again.  The hopeful outlook of his client renews his willingness to try for more.  Giselle, her dream dance interrupted by Nancy’s previous claim, is seduced by the offer of forgetting all the memories of love she won’t get to share forever and ever with Robert.  The woman was deceived, and she ate.  But she learns she was wrong. 

 10.  “So Far We are So Close”

These are the lyrics Robert sings to Giselle.  She’d been encouraging him the whole movie to express his true feelings in the convincing mode of a ballad, and now he’s singing to her without realizing exactly the import of his actions.  The gist of his confession is that they’ve been through a lot together.  He’s been angry and frustrated and confused, and she’s been angry and confused and conflicted.  Now they know each other, their strengths and weaknesses, not through analysis.  No, they know each other through experience.  They came from opposite points of view near to the middle of true, happily ever after love… so close. 

 11.  “Most Powerful Thing on Earth”

Is true love the most powerful thing on earth?  Song of Solomon says love is as strong as death.  But God’s love conquered even that last enemy (by Christ dying).  Does a kiss change evil?  Are there still things you have to fight?  Yes.  Love is powerful.  It does not, however, preclude a battle and a reality of pain and effort, falling and catching.  Perhaps it does guarantee the ending. 

 12.  Happily Ever After

The credits song, Ever Ever After, says that happily ever after can be true if you open your heart to be enchanted.  I really don’t like the credits song.  It missed all the good strong points of the movie.  Happily ever after is portrayed in Enchanted as marriage.  It is relationship, forsaking all others, and embracing a new life with determination, enthusiasm, and joy. 

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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The various temptations of a single woman’s life:

1. To want companionship to cure the loneliness: just a friend who is so often there that it doesn’t matter so much when he isn’t, a friend whose conversation is lively and intelligent and equally willing to listen to and interact with me.
2. To want the security of having a major point of the future decided and knowing exactly what is required of me. On a spiritual level the Bible answers this question sufficiently for each day’s choices, but on a lifestyle level, the Bible is frustratingly silent about the activity of an unmarried woman.
3. To want romance: flowers and notes and special attention and stories to share with friends, to have the flutter of expectation and the thrill of affection.
4. To want a leader, someone to follow and help and believe in, who is capable of leading, strong and visionary and full of faith. A girl sometimes just wants a man to tell her what to do.
5. To be sad, full of pity and despair and just wanting to stop hoping so that I can cry.
6. To be aloof, proclaiming disinterestedness in anything I don’t already have, lying so that hope is kept silent and so that life is a series of functions. To lose passion, releasing it for the safer state of not caring.
7. To fill the various temptations with temporary flirtations or imaginings, books or movies, or the stories of the romances and lives of friends.

There comes a point when guarding against all these various temptations is impossible. I stop being pitiful, only to be assailed with the temptation to watch a chick-flick to fill my yearnings. I applaud myself for not wanting romance and find that I want security.

So instead of trying not to fall into this trap or that snare, I need to focus on what I know I need to do. Love God. Talk to Him. He is leader, companion, listener, giver, refuge, planner, lov-er, and passionate. Serve Him. Don’t think about myself and all those wants. Take them to Him when they overwhelm me. Share with Him the poignant ordeal of waiting. And be ok with the reality that nothing I expect has to happen except what He has promised.

I don’t want anyone to think I want to be single forever. Hearing friends admire my patience drives me crazy; I don’t want them to imagine that waiting is easy. But I will wait, if only because I know that I cannot get what I deeply want any other way. The question is: will I wait well? Waiting is sacred, an activity of God who created time and invites us to imitate Him in it, to share in what He feels as time marches on between beginning and end, desire and fulfillment, initiation and consummation. But waiting is not a virtue. Patience is a virtue, and contentment, kindness and selflessness. Will waiting produce and demonstrate these in me?

To God be all glory,
Lisa of Longbourn

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