Humility = Heroism

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Humility is often viewed as negative or weak in our society. It’s all about the big “You” – standing up for yourself, using people to get to the next rung in your path to power and success, exploiting others’ weaknesses to reach your goals, doing things when they only promote your good, and even only going out of your way to help someone when it’s convenient for you.

Do you really think people in positions of great power are the happiest and most secure? Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying people who are in positions of authority or power aren’t humble. There are some great leaders.

As Ken Blanchard says:

Humility doesn’t mean you think less of yourself. It means you think of yourself less.

Have you ever stopped to think about how humble of some of your favorite heroes/heroines in history – even comic book heroes? They laid down their lives for others and put their needs ahead of their own personal gain. Yet, there was a joy there. You admire them, even seek to be like them.

Humility is beautiful. It calls us to heroism. Not a heroism that puffs up or purposely calls attention to itself. It’s full of grace and thanksgiving. For Christians, it’s a recognition of what God in Christ has done for us “while we were yet sinners.” From that realization, it’s a heart full of love and obedience in living out what we’ve been called to do – to love God and love others (1 John 4:21, Mark 12:30-31). *As my friend, Billy, pointed out and summed up what I was getting at:

All heroes are a shadow of Christ.

Humility stems from love. And love makes you go out of your way for the other person. It’s grace given to you that leaves you shaking your head in glorious astonishment. I’ve seen it again and again in my own life and relationships, from my boyfriend, family and friends. It never ceases to blow my mind and riddle me with great joy.

This thought, and now post, actually stemmed from the movie “Emma” (from the book written by Jane Austen), when Mr. Knightly is proposing to Emma. They’ve been best friends for years, but a set of circumstances drives both of them to realize they love each other, but the other doesn’t know how the other feels. But just this scene, and what he did to “win” her, just evoked that strong imagery of how humility is heroic, romantic and beautiful, especially in relationships. It’s the heart and action behind the words that give the words that much more intimacy and power. Such grace.

Emma: But I feel so full of error, so mistaken in my make up to deserve you.

Mr. Knightley: And what of my flaws? I’ve humbled you, and I’ve lectured you, and you have born as no one could have born it. Perhaps it is our imperfections that makes us so perfect for one another.

*Added in later to original post.

A Double Whammy

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Okay, so I’ve now had two people nominate me for the Liebster Blog Award: My darling friend and sister of my heart, Michal and my dear friend (and soon-to-be a new mother) Hayley (who also happens to be Michal’s amazing sister-in-law). I’m telling you they don’t make sister-in-laws and friends like these two women anymore. Suffice to say, I have no choice but to participate in this wonderful opportunity after both these ladies have recommended mine; the point of all this being to direct more readers to blogs with fewer than 200 followers in a chain-mail form of nominating people. I also get to answer some questions about myself.

Eleven Random Facts about Rachel 

1. My major was journalism, but my passion lies with magazine writing. I am a advertising/marketing copywriter for two: Texas Wedding Guide and Design Guide magazines. I do everything from print writing (features) to anything online, including our social media.

2. I have a nerdy side that comes out in the form of quoting or relating most life circumstances to a movie or book quote.

3. I am ridiculously in love with all things chocolate. It’s the purest form of dessert, in my expert opinion. Also, I love wine. Especially enjoy a glass or two with my boyfriend after a long day. He actually has turned me into more of a wine snob. Interesting fact: He didn’t care for wine until he started dating me. I liked the sweeter, white wines, whereas he preferred the bite of reds. Now I prefer red wine over white because of him.

4. I love to cook or bake a new recipe at least once a week, and not just pin them on Pinterest. I mostly love it because I enjoy doing it for or with my boyfriend.

5. I’m addicted to working out, Pilates and road biking – although I don’t take any of them too seriously. I’ve done three 5Ks and Hotter ‘n Hell bike marathon last summer (53 miles).

6. I’m left-handed.

7. When it comes to being right-brained or left-brained, I’m pretty much smack dab in the middle, but tend to lean more to the left (I’ve got that artsy side).

8. If you had to compare me to a character in literature, I would be Marianne (Sense and Sensibility – passionate and a romantic) with a dose of Elizabeth (Pride and Prejudice – a love of books and extremely stubborn/opinionated) with a dash of Jane (P&P – inclined to think the best of people) and wishing I had more Elinor in me (S&S).

9. Don’t be fooled, I may appear to be an extrovert, but I feel I lean towards being more of an introvert – I like my thinking space.

10. My ancestry is Greek and German. Not sure what that indicates about me….stubborn and smart? To look at me (and my nose) you’d see the Greek in me.

11. One question I’ve been wondering this whole time: Why 11 random facts? Because it’s an odd number and these are odd facts?

Eleven Random Questions Given from Michal, via Hayley, via Rachel (why not?)

If there was one place in the world you would travel to, where would it be? Italy. I’m a HUGE history (and art) buff, and there’s so much history there from Rome, with its history of the catacombs and persecution of the early church. Then there’s Venice, with great composers like Vivaldi and other great artists.

Have you yet mastered the art of parallel parking? No, and I don’t think I ever will. I can manage if I have to, but I break out in stress sweat each time, anticipating the screech of metal.

What is your favorite word? Vivacious (it pretty much changes from month to month). According to Merriam-Webster: Adjective (esp. of a woman) Attractively lively and animated; Synonyms: Lively – sprightly – spirited – brisk – anitmated – alive.

What is your favorite season of the year and why? If I lived in Northern California, I would say, hands down, Summer. But since I’m in Dallas, Texas, I would have to say Autumn. There air is electric (and cooler) and there’s so many spices in the air. The anticipation of the upcoming holidays full of delicious food and fun celebrations with friends and family. I love how colorful fall is and that I finally get to pull out my brown boots and cardigans.

What are you looking forward to doing most this summer? Spending some quality time doing activities with my boyfriend that we’ve been unable to do because he’s been consumed with homework and finals the past few months. He’ll be graduating from seminary (DTS) this month.

What is your favorite quote or words of wisdom?  Almost every quote from C.S. Lewis hits the mark. There are so many good quotes – it’s hard to decide. So, instead of agonizing, I’ll share a quote from a book I’ve been reading (Meaning of Marriage by Tim Keller) that’s encouraged and punched me in the gut: 

But I can guarantee that, whoever you marry, you will fall “out of like” with them. Powerful feelings of affection and delight will not and cannot be sustained. It is quite typical to lose the head-over-heels feelings for your mate even before you get married, because our emotions are tied to so many things within our physiology, psychology, and environment. Your feelings will ebb and flow, and if you follow our culture’s definition of “love,” you may conclude that this can’t be a person you should marry. Our culture glorifies romantic passion, and so we say, “If this was the person for me to marry, my feelings wouldn’t be so up and down.” In a chapter called Christian Marriage in Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis writes:

People get from books the idea that if you have married the right person you may expect to go on “being in love” forever. As a result, when they find they are not, they think this proves they have made a mistake and are entitled to a change – not realizing that, when they have change, the glamour will presently go out of the new love just as it went out of the old one…

In any relationship, there will be frightening spells in which your feelings of love seem to dry up. And when that happens you must remember that the essence of a marriage is that is it a covenant, a commitment, a promise of future love. So what do you do? You do acts of love, despite your lack of feeling. You may not feel tender, sympathetic, and eager to please, but in your actions you must be tender, understanding, forgiving, and helpful.

Coffee or tea? Coffee. Usually one cup a day. But I love tea, too.

What is the last movie you watched? The King’s Speech (with Colin Firth). This is a must-see (and must-own) movie. The quotes and exchanges are so colorful and gripping.

If there is one person in the world (living) whom you aspire to be like, who would it be?  There really isn’t just one person, and most are peers I look up to.

What/who/where is your inspiration for writing? Two writers who most inspire me: C.S. Lewis and Jane Austen. They had such verve and incredible insight. Basically any book or blog where I love the writer’s voice and use of words, I get excited about what I do because I learn from them.

What is your favorite thing to do with your family? Movie and pizza nights or our random, but in-depth conversations on a topic.

Here are a few blogs I think deserve many more readers:

A Woman Alive by Michal Conger. I could read her blog all day because she has such a way with words. She writes with clarity and in a style that’s enjoyable to follow and easy to understand. She also possesses wisdom beyond her years.

Sweet Tooth Mama by Hayley Elseth. I have a horrible (but wonderful) sweet tooth and enjoy following her adventures in the land of delectable sweets and treats, the tips she gives and the resources she recommends. And she has fun images.

Austen’s Guide to Happiness by a mother and wife living in Australia. I recently stumbled across this blog, and if you’re a die-hard fan of Jane Austen, you may just love this blog. She ties in scenarios and characters in the books with real-life struggles and delights.

The Rabbit Room by S.D. Smith. Good stuff on here if you’re a lover of literature. It has some great resources like podcasts and its own bookstore.

Ok, to be honest, most blogs I follow have a huge following and very few of my friends have blogs. I will often stumble across some delightful blogs via Pinterest. Also, I’ll take time out of my day to read the blog from The Gospel Coalition, which features multiple guest bloggers.

Books: A Gift That Keeps on Giving

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“The more you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.” – Dr. Seuss

Growing up, I couldn’t get enough of books. So much so, my parents would ban reading after 9 0′ clock at night. But, my little rebel heart found ways around that rule. No reading after certain hours, just meant a little flashlight and book under the covers. I’d try not to get so lost in the book in order to be alert to any movement towards or outside my door. Not saying this was a fool-proof plan…

My first “big girl” book, with chapters in it, was Nancy Drew “Skeleton in the Closet” by Carolyn Keene. It was my mom’s book as a girl. Yes, I ended up asking for the whole set, and accumulated it over several birthdays and Christmases. I’m really glad I had a brother who loved to read as much as I did. No, he did NOT read Nancy Drew, for the record.

As a child, and even now as an adult, I’m drawn to books of historical fiction, intrigue, fiction, and yes….a little romance for the romantic in me. I think reading books and authors like C.S. Lewis and his “The Chronicles of Narnia,” J.R.R. Tolkien’s “The Lord of the Rings,” and Jane Austen (among many others), shaped my love for words and writing.

Now, as an adult, I have to be even more intentional with my reading. Often, I’m juggling two or three books at a time. Through college, and even now, I struggle at making time to read. I am often surprised to learn how many people really don’t like to read. Reading does wondrous things for your vocabulary, your imagination and for your education!!

I came across this article from the Wall Street Journal on Facebook. A friend had shared the link on her profile. It’s titled: How to Raise Boys Who Read. The writer shares some great insight just about reading and education in general.

Speaking of C.S. Lewis, she quotes him in this article:

Education was once understood as training for freedom. Not merely the transmission of information, education entailed the formation of manners and taste. Aristotle thought we should be raised “so as both to delight in and to be pained by the things that we ought; this is the right education.”

“Plato before him,” writes C. S. Lewis, “had said the same. The little human animal will not at first have the right responses. It must be trained to feel pleasure, liking, disgust, and hatred at those things which really are pleasant, likeable, disgusting, and hateful.”

WHAM! This is so true about myself. Anything good or worthwhile usually doesn’t mean it will be the easiest, most natural thing or be on the path of least resistance.

 

Austen’s Power: a novelist’s advice to ‘recovering Romantics’

I HAD to share this. Can’t believe I hadn’t thought to write a book like this. LOVE Jane Austen. Her characters can be found in everyday life. You know what I’m talking about – you’ve seen the Mrs. Bennets and the Mr. Willoughbys. Enjoy!

For decades now, media marketers and content producers have been milking the Jane Austen craze, first with fine dramatizations of the novels themselves for small and large screen, then with a vast bazaar of knockoffs—sequels by the score (Letters from Pemberley: The First Year, Captain Wentworth’s Diary), modern adaptations (Emma as Valley Girl in the movie Clueless), and even exotica introducing zombies and sea monsters into the Austen genre. What on earth is the appeal?

Elizabeth Kantor has taken the trouble to think through a serious answer—to wit, Jane Austen “is the cure” for our modern disillusionment about happiness in marriage. Specifically, what keeps us coming back for more is the dignity, elegance, and sheer competence of the Austen heroine’s pursuit of happy love. A literary scholar steeped in Jane Austen’s fiction and letters, but also a happily married wife and mother, Kantor has distilled the essentials of that competence and presents them in this most engaging guide.

It is a guide for “recovering Romantics.” For to learn from Jane Austen (1775-1817), flower of the English Enlightenment, the modern woman must unlearn bad habits encouraged by our coarser culture of love. She must shed the Romantic’s quest for the unique soul mate, and the Romantic’s morbid fascination with emotional intensity, psychodrama, and the broken heart. She must spurn the manipulative program of The Rules, along with the jaded condescension toward men so casually indulged in by women postliberation. The antidote to all these is Enlightenment realism.

Realism first about human nature. A rector’s daughter who lived her whole life in a succession of Anglican parsonages, Jane Austen, Kantor notes, was “never shocked (though often amused) by folly and vice.” She knew that these are the common lot of men and women, and her most captivating characters of both sexes are people who come to recognize their own folly—their pride and their prejudice—and, humbled, learn to see and think a truer way. As they grow in self-knowledge, they strive for a clear-eyed balance, and for charity, in their judgments of others.

Realism, too, about the quest for a mate. Jane was writing at a cultural moment when the arranged marriage was no longer universal and the idea of the love match was in vogue. Her heroines choose for themselves, with minimal interference from (often absent or inadequate) parents. The ones who choose well do so by pacing themselves, not allowing their feelings to outrun the attractive man’s interest, while they study his character. Inevitably, complications arise—and present further opportunities for discovering what the man is really like. During this phase of courtship, the Austen heroine offers no “unsolicited proofs of tenderness,” but waits—fully aware that he may never make a move.

Jane Austen supplies plenty of counterexamples—giddy Lydia Bennet, who, far from pacing herself, runs off at 16 with the dashing seducer Wickham; the vain and scheming Maria Bertram, who “marries a man she doesn’t love to spite the one who doesn’t love her”; most memorably, Charlotte Lucas, hitched for the sake of security to the preposterous Mr. Collins, a wife who spends her days avoiding her husband—just to name three.

Austen also provides her modern readers with what Kantor calls a “forgotten vocabulary” for choosing the right man. In sizing up someone who attracts you, consider his principles, probably rooted in his religion. And consider his temper. After all, you want a man of quality, not one who’s good for you, Kantor says, but one who’s good. Does he display justice and right conduct, which everyone respects, and delicacy toward the feelings of other people? Does he show forbearance toward others’ shortcomings? Is his self-command reliable, or does he let it all hang out, imposing on others as he goes? Are his affections warm? Does he, like Jane’s heroes, have sense, understanding, and judgment? Does he show taste and talent and improve himself by education?

As Kantor reminds her reader, “What you get, if your love is successful, is essentially the other person,” with all his strengths and limitations. The pacing that she and Jane stress is a way of warding off premature emotional involvement while you’re still learning who he really is and what his intentions are. Remember, you may capture a man’s admiration without his attachment. Jane’s heroines strive to keep their heads even when they’re falling in love.

Further, Kantor distills from Jane Austen a sophisticated understanding of the complementarity of the sexes. If women more than men obsess over relationships and ponder their emotional complexities, this is not to be despised as a weakness but rather valued and cultivated as their special expertise. They have “a bigger skill set” than men for maneuvering through relationships, Kantor says, and they “do a better job of seeing the end game.” As the still-arrogant Mr. Darcy mordantly perceived, “A lady’s imagination is very rapid; it jumps from admiration to love, from love to matrimony, in a moment.”

By contrast, says Kantor, “men’s default setting is to live in the moment,” with commitment some considerable distance from their mind. Kantor rehearses eight case studies from the novels of men afraid of commitment. Must woman then entrap her prey? Must she scheme to compel the man’s submission to her will? Not at all, says Kantor, noting that “the woman who acts like that in Jane Austen is a villainess, not a heroine. Lady Susan Vernon [for example] uses her typically female verbal virtuosity to manipulate men” and take unfair advantage. The heroines use their powers not for evil, but for good.

It is, after all, not only women who are made happy by successful love, realized in marriage and family. This is also the path of lasting satisfaction for most men. Jane Austen, Kantor says, “teaches women to apply our talent for relationships to figure out how both sexes can avoid the pitfalls our weaknesses expose us to. She shows how men and women can transcend our limitations to meet each other in a place where we’ll both be happy.”

If this sounds a little abstract, Kantor ends with an eminently practical discussion of dating strategies for those who disdain the hookup culture, as Jane would. Two very different alternatives to bars and parties for broadening your acquaintance, she suggests, are church and Internet dating. In the first, you stand to encounter a higher than average concentration of people who consciously value marriage and who assume two people begin a relationship by getting to know each other. And the second, unlikely though it may seem, allows for Austen-like deliberateness and pacing. It invites you to ponder which qualities you have to offer and which you’re looking for.

This delightful book is meant for a particular audience: Jane Austen enthusiasts who are also dissatisfied with contemporary courtship mores and intrigued by the idea that the creator of Elizabeth Bennet has something to teach anyone whose private life resembles that of Bridget Jones. It is for capable readers undeterred by 81 pages of footnotes—and receptive to self-help hints at the end of every chapter under headings like “Adopt an Austen attitude” and “What would Jane do?” It is for singles wanting to get better at managing their hopes for happiness, and for any mother or grandmother, aunt or friend, who might be called upon to counsel such. Written in a voice that neither scolds nor preaches, but is in equal measure graceful, inventive, and wise, it is an original contribution to the counterculture dedicated to shoring up marriage.

Claudia Anderson is managing editor of The Weekly Standard.